Down Memory Lane, February 5 2021

A A previously unseen photograph of sailor Douglas MacArthur, who stayed with the Casey family in New York during the Second World War.unseen photograph of sailor Douglas MacArthur who stayed with the Casey family in New York during the Second World War.
A previously unseen photograph of sailor Douglas MacArthur, who stayed with the Casey family in New York during the Second World War.

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Searching for Second World War sailor’s family

An appeal is underway to trace the family of a WWII sailor from Campbeltown, who stayed with a US Navy family in New York during the war.

Douglas MacArthur, whose address at the time was given as 7 Princes Street, Campbeltown, is one of more than 150 British and Commonwealth servicemen who were welcomed to the home of Fraser and Eleanor Casey and their children during the war.

In what has become known as the Book of Memories, Eleanor recorded the names of all the sailors – who were deployed through the New York Naval Shipyard in Brooklyn – who stayed at the family’s home.

As well as their names, addresses and the boats on which they served, the file includes anecdotes about the men’s characters and photographs, taken by Eleanor herself, which will never have been seen by their families.

Some of the servicemen were in New York to carry out training while others enjoyed shore leave while waiting for convoys to assemble before the next trip across the Atlantic.

Eleanor used to write to their families to let them know their loved ones were well at the time of letter-writing, and she also sent food and clothing parcels to those with young children.

The Book of Memories was almost thrown out when the house was cleared out after Eleanor’s death but it was rescued by her daughter Pat, who sent it to Barrie Holden, one of the sailor’s sons.

Barrie has managed to trace the families of some of the sailors but has enlisted the help of history and ancestry buffs Gloria Winfield and Nicola Girling to try to locate the rest.

The hand-written record for Douglas MacArthur reads: ‘LT/JX177027 Douglas MacArthur, c/o Mrs D H MacArthur, 7 Princes Street, Campbeltown. Seaman, HMS Skye. Five children at home, much older than he appears, likes children, very friendly. Headed for Jamaica. Was a fisherman, now a shoe salesman.’

Scored out below the address is another – ‘No 1 Roading Place’ – which may have been a previous address, as it appears that Douglas visited the Caseys’ house twice – once in May 1943 and again in September 1944.

‘We’d love to find his family,’ Gloria told the Courier. ‘He was married with five children so we’re hopeful there will still be family in the area.

‘In 1944, he was headed to Jamaica, where the UK had a Fleet Air Arm base, so that in itself is a significant part of his history – not everyone went there.

‘When you read about these men, snippets about their lives and little bits about their personalities, it makes it very personal. They became like members of the Casey family, whose house became like a home from home for them.

‘They were given an opportunity to get away from the horrors of going back and forth across the Atlantic with the U-boats picking them off.

‘We’d like to post copies of the photographs, which the families will never have seen before, to the men’s relatives – we don’t ask for any money or anything in return.’

Gloria can be contacted by email at historiangmw@hotmail.com

For more on the project to reunite the men’s photographs and information with their relatives, visit https://www.finderguru.co.uk/the-casey-project-ww2-photos/