Generations of Ackworth family fought for their country

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Last Friday marked the 70th anniversary of the D-Day landings, the start of a campaign that eventually led to the end of World War Two.

One Ackworth family proud to serve their Queen and country in the armed forces have served across numerous wars in nine different countries, including fighting as part of the D-Day landings in June 1944.

Fred Stephenson was in the territorial army when World War One started and served in the Duke of Wellington’s Regiment throughout.

He remained in the army after 1918 and became the recruiting sergeant at Pontefract Barracks where he recruited all four of his sons in the 1930s and then served in the East Yorkshire Regiment in World War Two as an instructor to the home guard.

Mr Stephenson’s oldest son, Jack, served in France with the 8th Army prior to the Battle of Dunkirk.

He moved up the ranks to captain of the troop and later served in Egypt with the Royal Army Service Corps.

His second son, Harry, joined the forces as a driver in the Royal Army Service Corps. He was evacuated from Dunkirk and in 1942 was taken prisoner by the Germans at Tobruk.

Third son, George, joined the artillery in 1935 as a trumpeter. He was too young to go overseas at the outbreak of war but soon joined the third infantry division and then became a glider pilot.

On D-Day minus one, George flew a glider to France carrying a light artillery piece and crew. They landed safely and he eventually returned to England.

In September 1944 he flew a glider to Arnhem, in the Netherlands, but his tow rope broke and he landed at Drunen, too short of the drop zone.

He was reported missing, presumed dead but returned home five weeks later having been rescued by the Dutch Resistance.

They had hidden him and his crew in a monastery which was being used as Nazi headquarters. The Nazis occupied the ground level of the building and the glider crew, dressed as monks, occupied the upper level.

Youngest son, Kenneth Stephenson, now aged 91, enlisted at 14 to train at the Woolwich Army Technical College stationed in Kent.

He then joined the Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers and by 1942 was in action in Egypt, Iraq, Persia and Palestine.

In 1944, he became part of the parachute regiment and trained in Italy. From there he was sent to Athens, Greece to prevent a communist takeover by The Greek People’s Liberation Army.

He returned to Italy and received more than 20 briefings regarding a mission to cross the River Po to Austria but peace was declared before it took place.

In 1945 Kenneth returned home for a number of months but was sent back to Palestine on peace keeping duties to enable the settlement of Israel.

In 1948 he left the army but was called up from the reserves to go to Korea in 1950, where he served for 14 months.

Kenneth was guest of honour at Ackworth Heritage Group’s annual village green event on Sunday, June 1.

As a veteran, he officially opened the World War One- themed event which commemorated 100 years since the start of the war in 1914.

Kenneth’s grandson, Maj Jack Duckitt, is following in the footsteps of previous generations of his family, having served in Iraq in 2003 and having completed three tours of duty in Afghanistan