War hero prepares for emotional return
By James HoreA VETERAN who witnessed the sinking of the Bismarck and survived the bombing of his own ship is set for an emotional return to the scene of some of his wartime experiences.
By James Hore
A VETERAN who witnessed the sinking of the Bismarck and survived the bombing of his own ship is set for an emotional return to the scene of some of his wartime experiences.
Geoffrey Kitchen joined the Royal Marines at 16 years old, having lied about his age to get in. During the war he saw much of the world with active service throughout the northern and southern hemispheres.
From the decks of the HMS DorsetshireMr Kitchen watched as the Bismarck, believed to be unsinkable, was destroyed in an epic sea battle in the Atlantic Ocean on May 27, 1941.
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Mr Kitchen was also on board his ship alongside HMS Cornwall and heading towards Sri Lanka on Easter Day, 1942, when Japanese fighters attacked.
The ship was abandoned and the crew were at the mercy of sharks as they waited for more than 30 hours in extreme temperatures before the Australian Royal Navy spotted and saved the survivors.
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Now the 81-year-old, who lives in Dedham, is set to journey to South Africa for eight days with the HMS Dorsetshire Survivors' Association.
Next month's trip is being funded by the National Lottery's Heroes Return, which provides money to help veterans return to where they served.
Mr Kitchen, who went on to become a teacher in Essex after the war, said he had fond memories of his time in South Africa.
"There was no rationing there and it was a good place to be and we got on well with the people out there," he added.
"We were made to feel very hospitable in the Cape and some of the lads met girls there and got married. It is called the heroes return, but we are not heroes in that respect, we are veterans."
Mr Kitchen said he hoped to be able to go into schools to recall his stories so that future generations will know of the war.
"If veterans do not know about this opportunity they will not go and equally when we get back with many memories, we will need to make use of it. We will be available if a school has a project and we can be there to talk on it, " he added.
n Any veterans or veteran associations interested getting funding for a trip from National Lottery's Heroes Return should contact 0845 0000 121.