LINDA Freeman, 74, laid eyes on her father for the very first time in 2019.

She had spent a lifetime wondering what he looked like, what sort of man he was and where he lived.

Her mother, Violet, who died in 2012 at the age of 89, had only given her scraps of information about her dad.

He was a United States serviceman by the name of Leonard, who had served in Wormingford during the Second World War.

As was so common during the war, when two million US troops passed through the UK, Violet and Leonard enjoyed a whirlwind romance.

But back home in Texas, Leonard had a wife, Betty, who he returned to when the war ended.

Violet gave birth to Leonard’s child, Linda, that same year.

She was heartbroken by her lover’s departure, but like many women in wartime Britain, displayed a remarkable stoicism and determination to do right by her family.

During the war, she worked in a silk factory making parachutes.

She moved on and married her lifelong husband James Catney in 1950, going on to have four boys Michael, James, Kevin and Brian.

Linda said: “Many children born in these circumstances were adopted but my mum kept me.

“She was a strong woman and her experiences made her strong.

“She was protective of us, which is probably why she didn’t talk about it.”

Gazette: Airman - Leonard Davidson during the warAirman - Leonard Davidson during the war

Linda had given up hope of ever finding out more about her father but as is so often the way, chance - and perhaps even fate - intervened.

While on holiday in Portugal with family last year, Linda’s niece persuaded her to take a DNA test to see if she could find out more about her long-lost father.

Little did she know, a descendant of Leonard’s had also decided to take a DNA test in America.

Last summer, Linda received an email that would change her life.

She said: “It was from my niece I had never known. She wanted to do a family tree, she said I was third on her list and asked ‘Who are you?’

“I just wrote back with what I knew, that my dad was an American named Leonard.

“And she came back and said ‘You’re my mum’s sister.’

“I just couldn’t believe what I was seeing.

“We emailed for a few months from June or July onwards and then we decided to go over there in November just to meet them.”

Linda discovered she has three other American siblings by Leonard’s marriage with Betty.

After the war, Leonard had continued his life in the States raising Linda’s two half-sisters and one half-brother and working for Ford in aircraft construction.


  • Soldier - Leonard Davidson as a young man

By sheer coincidence, Linda has a sister, two years older than her, also named Linda.

“She’s Linda one and I’m Linda two,” she said.

“My sister, Mary, lives in Texas and the other two, Linda and Leonard Jr, live in Savannah, Georgia.

“Myself and my husband, Roger, flew over to visit them in Savannah and at the airport about ten of the family were standing there with big banners and flags which read ‘Welcome to America.’

“The welcome was amazing, it was all incredible.

“I felt I had this immediate connection with them, particularly Linda.

“We really did feel like sisters.

“It was a shock to them, of course, they didn’t know about me.

“I think one of them at first said ‘My dad wouldn’t do that’, but then she watched Foyle’s War and that gave her an idea of what it was like.

“They didn’t know how different things were over here because it was a war zone.

“They were all so nice, we went out together and we celebrated Thanksgiving together early.

“We went to visit a museum where they put the aircraft American pilots were flying, my father’s name was there amongst all the men.”

Thanks to her newfound family members, Linda was able to discover her father, Leonard Davidson, was born in 1920 in Eagle City, Oklahoma. A Tech Sergeant in the US Army Air Corps, he had served during the Second World War from 1942-1945 as Crew Chief working on P-38 and P-51 fighters.

His job was to maintain the aircraft.

He died in 2000 at the age of 80.

“I really wanted a picture of him and in the end he was sort of how I imagined him,” said Linda.

“Last year turned into the best year of my life.

“They are planning on coming over to see us all in March.

“They’ve been so lovely I can’t believe my luck, because they could have not been interested, which I was prepared for.

“The thing is mum and dad have passed away, so we have no-one to hurt if they didn’t like it.

“He might not have wanted to know because he had a nice family.

“He gave his children a good education, one was a dentist and one was a teacher.

“One got a bit sad and said ‘I am surprised my dad never maintained you’.

“I said ‘Don’t worry about it, it is what it is.’

“It was a different time and it was during the war.

“I don’t want to paint either of them in a bad light. It wasn’t a one night stand, she fell in love and she didn’t know what he knew.”

The Second World War was a tumultuous time when people made decisions fuelled by the possibility that each day could be their last.

Separated by two continents and 70 years, the two different strands of family were as far apart as one could ever imagine.

However, goodwill and love brought them together.

Linda’s niece Erin handed over a book of pictures and facts, specially made for her upon her visit to the US.

On the inside cover, a message reads: “I am so happy we have found you and so grateful to have you as part of our family.

“I hope you enjoy these pictures of grandpa over the years. Our whole family feels blessed to have the opportunity to meet you.”