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Kirkby war hero great-granddad to attend D-Day commemorative service

Posted onPosted on 4th Jun

A Kirkby great-grandfather who fought the Nazis, after being forced from his home and used as a slave during the second world war, has been invited to attend a service to commemorate the 80th anniversary of the D-Day landings.

Wladyslaw Nazar (known as Walter), was just a boy when he was taken from his home in Poland by German troops and used as slave labour in Germany and France.

He worked in an ammunition factory and then as a farm labourer before being moved to occupied France.

There, he helped build concrete bunkers used by German soldiers in their battles with Allied forces, who landed on the beaches at Normandy in June 1944 to liberate Western Europe.

After escaping his captors, Walter joined local partisans, attacking German patrols, before joining an American combat division, where he was an ammunition carrier and later an interpreter of PoWs.

Now, 80 years later, Walter and his wife, Judy, will be guests of honour at a special service at St Wilfrid’s Church, Kirkby, on Thursday, 6th June.

The 97-year-old, who has lived in Kirkby for more than 70 years, was only 12 when Germany invaded Poland in September 1939, triggering the start of the war.

He remembers vividly the day he was forcibly taken from his hometown, changing his life forever.

“My mother sent me to buy some yeast from town, but German lorries pulled up and I was taken with other boys and old men. They took us to a railway station and put us on trains to Germany to a slave camp,” he said.

“We were treated terribly, had very little to eat, and slept on straw. I was living with Russian and French prisoners of war.”

After working in a German ammunition factory in Nuremberg, Walter worked as a farm hand until being moved to France.

“We had to build bunkers. I would put metre-long steel rods in before the concrete,” he added.

Walter was one of eight slave labourers who managed to escape, joining up with local partisan fighters in France.

“We were demolishing railway lines at night and hunting the Germans; but they were hunting us,” said Walter.

“We needed their weapons and supplies. One day we heard tanks, but it was the American army.”

American troops took Walter under their wing and, although still only a teenage boy, he joined the 1258th Combat Engineer Battalion Company B, as the Allies fought their way through France and into Germany.

He became close to a master sergeant called Bill, who was originally from Scotland. And as they dreamed of the end of the conflict, he asked

Walter to return to America with him once the war had ended and start a new life there.

“But Bill was shot and killed by one of the Hitler Youth, it was very sad,” Walter remembered.

When the war finally ended in May 1945, Walter remained with American forces in Nuremberg, around the time of the war crimes trials of Nazi leaders.

Eventually, he came to Britain with other Eastern European exiles, unable to return home because of the rise of Communism and the Iron Curtain.

Walter spent some time in Cambridge before moving to Nottingham, where he met his wife in 1953.

The couple, who have now have been married for 66 years, have four children, seven grandchildren, and eight great-grandchildren.

Walter spent the rest of his working life in mining, although he admits to hating the job so much he once attempted suicide, only to be saved by his friends.

In the 1960s he was able to return home to Poland, where he was reunited with his mother and other family members.

Walter has never had any official recognition for his wartime exploits because he was underage and did not have any official documentation of his time with American forces, apart from old photos showing him in an American military uniform with his company.

What he witnessed as a young teenage boy has stayed with him forever and Judy said her husband still has nightmares about it today, all these years later.

Walter added: “It’s a cruel world, when I think of what happened to so many people, especially the women and children. It still comes to me, at nighttime, it goes round and round in my head… you can’t forget that, you just can’t.”

Ashfield District Council chairman, Coun Arnie Hankin said it would be a privilege and an honour to welcome Walter and Judy as the district commemorated 80 years since D-Day, and the part so many played in helping liberate Europe from the Nazis.