Actor Charlie Lawson (far left) famous for playing the role of Jim McDonald in the TV soap Coronation Street spoke this week about his uncle John Glennie, a lieutenant in the Royal Irish Fusiliers who was killed in the Italian campaign in 1943.
Born in Enniskillen in 1923, John Glennie attended the town’s Portora Royal School. He was commissioned into the Royal Ulster Rifles and posted to the Royal Irish Fusiliers in Sicily in August 1943.
“My mother (Glennie’s sister) spoke openly and very, very emotionally about her brother,” Lawson said. “She adored him very much. His loss stuck with her, her whole life.”
Lawson discovered the circumstances of his uncle’s death during a morning attack across the River Trigno on Italy’s Adriatic coast in the early hours of 28 October 1943 when he found a YouTube documentary film about the battle.
This included an account of the attack and Glennie’s death written by Faughs’ captain Lawrie Franklyn-Vaile, his company commander at the time, to his wife in the UK.
This prompted him to examine a box of documents about Glennie. These included several that Lawson’s mother Muriel had written to Glennie unaware that he had been killed in action.
“They had been returned because the addressee was deceased…She (Muriel) left them sealed,” Lawson said. “This afternoon I gently opened them to read them. A more moving afternoon I haven’t had for a long time.
Others included several sent to Glennie’s mother by Glenys from Prestatyn who Glennie met in January 1943 while training in North Wales.
“They met and fell in love with each other,” says Lawson.
Says Lawson: “He was a deeply religious young man. One of the personal possessions we have that was returned was the bible he kept with him at all times.”
Lawson’s father Quentin flew Thunderbolt fighter aircraft in 79 Squadron in the Burma campaign. He was mentioned in dispatches and one of the letters Lawson has includes one to his father from Lord Louis Mountbatten commending him for his gallantry. Returning to Northern Ireland, Quentin Lawson became general manager of the Taylor-Woods factory in Enniskillen.
You can see the interview with Charlie Lawson in episode 9 of This Week in the Italian campaign, a weekly YouTube programme about events in Italy in 1943-45. https://youtube.com/live/msVvXJQNEKg
A half-day conference about the Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers and other Irish regiments in the Italian Campaign is being held on Saturday 11 November at the Inniskillings Museum.
For more information contact:
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