War heroes' incredible reunion

A SECOND World War veteran has had an emotional reunion with a comrade who officially “died” 67 years ago.

Anthony Bond

A SECOND World War veteran has had an emotional reunion with a comrade who officially “died” 67 years ago.

Gerry Solomon, 92, from Stutton, near Holbrook, and Harry Finlayson, 93, last saw each other in 1941 when both were serving in the 5th Battalion the Tank Regiment in north Africa.

Mr Finlayson, from Somerset, was reported missing presumed dead after the German Africa Korps destroyed his tank. He was even given a military funeral and his wife was awarded a widow's pension.

It was not until three months after the conflict on November 23 that he sent his wife a letter telling her he had survived. However, Mr Solomon never knew what happened to his friend.

But on Wednesday, nearly seven decades on, both men came face-to-face with each other again at a special reunion in Colchester.

Most Read

It followed an advertisement in a military magazine by Mr Finlayson's daughter which advertised the tank commander's survival.

Mr Solomon, a former newsagent, said both were very close during the war. “It was very emotional. I was delighted when I heard he was still alive. We got on famously and it was quite a moving occasion. We moved from subject to subject and talked about people we both knew,” he said.

“The last time I saw him he was going to attack an aerodrome in north Africa. He then got mixed up with another battalion and he had part of his radio aerial blown off and he could not get a message to pull back.

“We did not know what happened to him, whether he had died or was wounded.”

Mr Finlayson, a retired telephone engineer, said of Mr Solomon: “We were great friends in the desert and I had a photograph of him and I by the pyramids. We chatted for one-and-a-half hours. Oh yes - he was surprised - he said 'I thought you were dead'.

Both men agreed they hardly recognised each other with the passing years

And they also agreed that they would keep in touch in the future.

Mr Solomon said: “When we left Harry said 'I am glad I have got hold of you, I will not let you go.”

The Service Personnel and Veterans Agency, part of the Ministry of Defence, helped to arrange the reunion. If you are a veteran, in need of help or support, the agency can be contacted on 0800 169 2277.

Become a Supporter

This newspaper has been a central part of community life for many years. Our industry faces testing times, which is why we're asking for your support. Every contribution will help us continue to produce local journalism that makes a measurable difference to our community.

Become a Supporter