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RN sailor’s family comes forward after 1944 wartime pic featured in The Royal Gazette

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A photograph of Donald E. Henderson, taken on May 19, 1944, which appeared in a wartime album that has become the subject of a project to link images of servicemen with their families (Photograph supplied)
Donald Henderson with children John, Raymond and Linda in about 1949 (Photograph supplied)
Linda Lewis, nee Henderson, with her father Donald Henderson, in 1986 (Photograph supplied)
Paul Henderson, Mr Henderson’s youngest child from his first marriage, in 1954 (Photograph supplied)

The daughter of a Second World War veteran said she was “amazed” to see a photograph of him in his Royal Navy uniform published online by The Royal Gazette on Remembrance Day.

Linda Lewis contacted the Gazette after she read about her father, Donald Henderson, who was part of a project to trace servicemen featured in a wartime photo album.

She said yesterday: “It was amazing to see my father that young.

“I don’t have many pictures of him, although I have one very tiny black and white one of him lying at the back of the terminal at Somerset – my dad’s lying there with the three of us children sitting on him.

“To see him in his uniform … it was just like ’that’s my father’. I can’t believe it.”

Another daughter – Amanda Henderson, who lives in California – also e-mailed the Gazette later to say she had read the article about her father.

She said: “It was very touching to read about him during his time in the Navy.

“He rarely spoke of it, and it was only on his passing in 2007 that I found photographs of him during this time.”

Ms Henderson added: “He was a wonderful father, and a truly gentle man.”

The photograph of Mr Henderson was taken when he was 22 and staying with a family called Casey in New York in 1944.

The image was placed alongside pictures of, and notes on, more than 100 other servicemen who benefited from the family’s hospitality during the war.

A British man, Barrie Holden, whose father appeared in the album, started a quest to find the relatives of every serviceman featured.

His project was later passed to Finder Guru, a people-finding agency in England, which contacted The Royal Gazette in an effort to trace Mr Henderson’s next of kin.

Ms Lewis, 72, and her brothers Raymond, 74, and Paul, 66, as well as eldest John, who died in 2016, were the children of Mr Henderson’s first marriage.

They grew up in Sandys, where their father worked at the Somerset Esso gas station after the war before he took a job at the Bank of Butterfield.

Mr Henderson left Bermuda and moved to Massachusetts and later Florida. He married twice more and also had a son called Donald.

Ms Lewis said she believed her father died in the US and that his ashes were scattered in Nova Scotia, where his third wife, Barbara, was from.

The accountant at Harrington Hundreds, whose son Aaron, 34, alerted her to the online article yesterday, said that her father rarely talked about the war.

She added she was aware he had served in Ceylon, now Sri Lanka.

Ms Lewis, now of Southampton, said: “When I saw that picture it just made me shaky and nervous.

“I don’t know why … it was lovely to see it.”

She added: “I see my brothers in it and, to some degree, I see my son because we’re all tall and very thin and we all get it from my father.”

A note that accompanied the photograph of Mr Henderson said he had one brother and two sisters and wanted to work for an airline after the war.

It added he was an “especially nice – sort of home boy”.

Nicola Girling, of Finder Guru, said this week it would be “particularly poignant” for his relatives to read about the “Casey Project” on Remembrance Day – yesterday’s public holiday to mark the Armistice that ended the First World War and now also honours those who have lost their lives in conflicts since.

The genealogist added: “I am absolutely delighted to learn that Mr Henderson's daughter has come forward.

“Thank you to The Royal Gazette and its readership for making this happen.

“I am humbled by how you have all pulled together to help me get this man reunited with his family.”

She added: “The album is remarkable, and the more I work on this project, the more remarkable things happen.

“It is bringing out the best in everyone involved.

“Thank you Bermudians for being part of this.”

Ms Girling said: “It is our intention to create a lasting tribute to each serviceman in this project so we would welcome any more photographs of Mr Henderson and to learn more about him.”

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

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

It added the project wanted to trace the next of kin of all the servicemen featured in the album.

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

*To find out more about the project, visithttps://www.finderguru.co.uk/the-casey-project/.

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Published November 12, 2020 at 8:00 am (Updated November 11, 2020 at 7:27 pm)

RN sailor’s family comes forward after 1944 wartime pic featured in The Royal Gazette

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