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Reuniting WW2 Photos with Families – Can You Help?


Last year, Matthew Smaldon purchased a collection of historic photographs. An usual discovery soon began his quest to return these photos to families.

Mr. Smaldon acquired the photographs last year, each depicting a man who served in the Second World War, and, unusually, each including the name of the person pictured.

Further research highlighted that the images had all been labelled together, and Mr. Smaldon suspects this was for use in an exhibition. It became increasingly clear that the images were to be returned to their owners following the completion of whatever exhibition took place. However, sadly, for whatever reason, this never happened.

After thoroughly examining the photographs, Matthew decided to try and return each photo himself.

Fred Swarbrick with the returned photo of himself taken during the Second World War, Fleetwood 2015. (Courtesy of David Swarbrick)

All the people in the photographs appeared to originate from the same area, Fleetwood in Lancashire, England. However, although various searches generated a handful of leads, no responses came in.

A selection of the images and names, with the story so far, were posted to two online forums. From this, Mr. Smaldon was contacted by Diane Everett, a former resident of Fleetwood who currently resides in Cape Town, South Africa. As a member of the Fleetwood’s Past Facebook group, Diane was able to posted a request for information to that group. This elicited a number of responses, the information from these replies allowed Matthew to successful return three photos to family members.

An additional four photographs were returned to families after two stories run in the local newspaper, Fleetwood Weekly News, generated several responses.

Alan Harden – Parachute Regiment, returned to family January 2017.

One of these came in from David Swarbrick. He noticed that one of the photos in Smaldon’s possession was of his father, Fred Swarbrick. Excitingly, Fred, at the time of writing, was still alive and well, and still resident to Fleetwood. Fred Swarbrick had served in the British Army in India during the Second World War. After the photo was returned to him, the Fleetwood Weekly News ran a feature which included a photo of Mr Swarbrick holding with the returned photograph.[img src=16532 align=right]

Matthew Smaldon’s fantastic work and research, helped greatly by those such as Diane Everett, has meant nine of these usual photographs have been returned to either the men depicted in them, or to surviving family. One image, of former paratrooper Alan Hardern, was returned to his family just two weeks ago. Another recent success has seen the return of Stephen Ligo’s photo, a former soldier who served in Egypt, to his son.

However, Mr Smaldon still has 14 photographs he would like to see returned to the families of the individuals depicted.

If anyone recognises the men, or has information which may help Matthew, or wishes to find out more, please contact him on the details below. He is very keen to reunite the remainder these photographs to the men or their families.



Tel: 01235 541922

Twitter: @wwiistories

Frank Fielding – Royal Artillery

Bill Parkinson – RAF Dental Corps

Gordon Ward – British Army

Harold Colley – Royal Air Force

Charles Thompson, 1925-2013 – British Army

John Dickinson – C Troop – 350/137th Field Regiment, Royal Artillery

Ralph Leadbetter – British Army

Leonard Moon – Merchant Navy

Bill Hudson – Duke of Lancaster’s Regiment

Richard Snape – Royal Air Force

Cedric Spivey – Royal Engineers

Teddy Dickson – Royal Artillery

Cyril Paley, 1915-2011 – Royal Air Force, Shot down and escaped to Switzerland

Ronald Stansfield – British Army

Posted in News


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