Former soldier wrote to Dame Vera Lynn to thank her for the help her music provided to troops
Merchant seaman Raymond Buck never forgot the role the forces sweetheart played keeping spirits high among weary troops during the Second World War.
But it was only when she replied to his letter that he found out her uncle had also risked his life on the North Atlantic convoys.
The horrors of war will never leave him, but there is one memory that Raymond, 95, cherishes.
It was a summer evening in South Africa in 1941 when he and 15,000 troops were moved to tears by the lyrics of We’ll Meet Again and The White Cliffs Of Dover.
Dame Vera’s songs that night were performed by South African soprano Perla Siedle Gibson, known as “the Lady in White”.
Dame Vera, who celebrates her 100th birthday in March, told the Daily Express: “It’s so pleasing that people are still in touch after so many years.
“Perhaps Raymond may have known my uncle, Charlie Augur. Unfortunately, I cannot remember what rank or ship he was on – it was such a long time ago.”
It’s so pleasing that people are still in touch after so many years
Dame Vera Lynn
Mr Buck and Charlie Augur were among tens of thousands who risked their lives at sea taking supplies to North Africa.
The veteran served in the Merchant Navy from 1937 to 1956 and his heroics during the D-Day invasion on June 6, 1944 earned him the Legion d’Honneur – France’s highest decoration.
In 1941 he was aboard the SS Arabistan, laden with munitions, tanks, troops and nitroglycerin, en route to Alexandria, Egypt.
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When Dame Vera replied they discovered they had a wartime connection in the North Atlantic
Despite Royal Navy support, his convoy had been attacked on Christmas Day 1940 by German heavy cruiser Admiral Hipper, and put in to Durban for supplies on January 25.
Reliving the moment 76 years later, Mr Buck said: “Anchored off Durban, small boats were moving through the fleet carrying out refuelling and restoration duties for us to leave the following day.
“A women dressed in white came to a high spot ashore with a megaphone.
The Queen during World War II
Tue, July 21, 2015
Pictures of Queen Elizabeth II during the second world war.
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A 16-yer-old Queen Elizabeth II registers for war service under the Minsitry of Labour's Youth Registration Scgeme on 25th April 1942
“She started singing Vera Lynn songs We’ll Meet Again and The White Cliffs Of Dover.
“About 15,000 men on the ships joined in knowing this might be the last time they heard these words.
“When she started singing these songs I remember it just felt momentous.
Raymond Buck proudly holds up his service medals and portrait
“Her voice reverberated around the harbour and everybody aboard these ships was singing their hearts out. “You never knew what was coming so this was a chance to forget about everything.”
Mr Buck, who now lives in Bristol, lost his wife of 70 years, Rose Ellen, to dementia in 2015. He has three children, two grandchildren and twin great-grandchildren.
Of his own heroism, the modest veteran said: “When I think of all the heroes of the war it was only a small part I played. But I suppose we all played our part, didn’t we?”