ALMOST until the end, Leslie Knight never spoke to anyone of his experiences during the Second World War.
While battling dementia in his final days, the former Royal Army Ordnance Corp soldier would sometimes be discovered by wife Julia with a tear in his eye, speaking of “poor boys” lost in the conflict.
But shortly after he died aged 96 in May, Julia and daughter Ellen Gooding discovered an A4 envelope with “My Wartime Story” written on it.
Inside was ten printed pages, secretly typed up over 16 months in 2006 and 2007, giving a matter-of-fact account of his role in the conflict.
It detailed how Leslie cheated death several times, including suffering malaria in Egypt and being bombed in Greece, and told of many of the friends he had lost.
He wrote how after signing up and going through training shortly after the war broke in 1939, he had been posted to Egypt to confront the Italians.
But he was soon struck down with malaria and rushed to hospital in Alexandria, where he had a “miraculous escape from death”.
He later served in Greece, Palestine, the Desert Rats campaign and Italy before taking part in the D-Day landings.
Leslie’s funeral, in June, was held at Monkwick’s St Margaret Church, which he helped to build in the 1960s and 1970s when he was not working for Crittall Windows in Witham.
Julia described her husband as a generous man who was always helping people.
For more, see Wednesday's Gazette