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Lest we forget: search under way for descendants of war veteran

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A photo and note about Bermudian Donald E. Henderson in the “Casey” World War II photo album (Photograph supplied)
The note about Donald E Henderson, from Bermuda, in the “Casey” World War Two photo album (Photo supplied)
The picture of Donald E Henderson, from Bermuda, taken on May 19, 1944. The photo appears in a wartime album belonging to the Casey family, of New York (Photograph supplied)

A search is under way to find the closest surviving relative of a Second World War veteran from Bermuda who features in a wartime photo album.

Donald E. Henderson, from Somerset, was aged just 22 and believed to be serving in the British Royal Navy when he stayed with a family called the Caseys in New York in 1944.

The mother, Eleanor Casey, took the young sailor’s photograph and placed it in an album along with pictures of and notes about more than 100 other servicemen who benefited from the family’s hospitality during the war.

The album came to light in recent years after a British man, Barrie Holden, found notes and correspondence about the Caseys in his father’s belongings.

He tracked down Eleanor’s daughter, Patsy Cox, in New York, and she sent him the album, in which he found his father’s photograph.

Mr Holden embarked on a quest to find the relatives of all the men pictured in the album so he could share the photographs and notes with them.

He eventually passed the project to a people-finding agency in England called Finder Guru, which is now seeking Mr Henderson’s next of kin.

Nicola Girling, of Finder Guru, told The Royal Gazette she was inspired to work on the project because her grandfathers served in the British army and navy.

“We are funding a voluntary project to get these boys home,” she said.

“It is a very humbling and very rewarding thing to work on.

“One particularly lovely thing about this album is the endearing little notes that give us a real insight into the men behind the uniforms. Some are heartbreaking; some are amusing.

“There have been a lot of tears. I am so proud of what we are doing here.”

The photograph of a grinning Mr Henderson, dressed in naval attire, was taken on May 19, 1944, and is accompanied by his parents’ names and address: Mr and Mrs R J Henderson, of West Side, Somerset, Bermuda.

A note describes the young serviceman as having one brother and two sisters, of wanting to work for an airline after the war and of being an “especially nice — sort of home boy”.

Ms Girling, a genealogist, said it would be “particularly poignant” for his relatives to read about the “Casey Project” on Remembrance Day — today’s public holiday which celebrates the agreement to end fighting in the First World War and honours those who fought in both world wars.

She said Mr Henderson may have moved to Nova Scotia at some point after the war but could still have relatives in Bermuda.

The ancestry.com website lists a Donald Henderson born in Bermuda in 1922 to Robert James Henderson and Cecily Elmina Ray.

It says Donald Henderson died on October 26, 2007, in Canada.

Research published online by retired Bermuda police inspector John Skinner suggests Robert James Henderson may have been a Dockyard policeman who served in the First World War.

Ms Girling is working with military historian Gloria Winfield on the Casey Project.

The Finder Guru website says: “Their search so far has involved people in Norway, France, New Zealand, India, Australia, Canada and Great Britain,” it says.

“The Casey Project is our mission to get these men’s photographs back to their families.

“And not just any family member. To their next of kin. Some have never seen a picture of their relative before.”

It adds: “Many of these men never made it home. These photographs could be the last ones ever taken of them.

“Poignant reminders of the sacrifice they made.

“Collaborating with their families, local history societies, newspapers and businesses in their home towns, we will make sure they are honoured.

“We will remember them.“

To read more, visit https://www.finderguru.co.uk/the-casey-project/.

If you are a relative of Donald Henderson or have information about his family, e-mail news@royalgazette.com

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Published November 11, 2020 at 8:26 am (Updated November 11, 2020 at 9:51 am)

Lest we forget: search under way for descendants of war veteran

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