Prayer book to be returned after 70 years

Vic Bates is returning the bible he found on the war torn beaches in Italy to the family of an American servicman.
Vic Bates is returning the bible he found on the war torn beaches in Italy to the family of an American servicman.

A PRAYER book picked up by a veteran during the storming of an Italian beach in the Second World War will be returned to the family nearly 70 years later.

Vic Bates was running for his life along a beach in the Gulf of Salerno under fire from German resistance when he spotted the prayer book and picked it up.

After 68 years in Vic’s care, the prayer book will be returned to the family of the American serviceman, Roland Wakeman, who dropped it at the beach.

Both men were taking part in Operation Avalanche, a joint mission between American and British troops to push the Germans back. Vic was 21 at the time of the landings and was serving as a guardsman in the Grenadier Guards.

Vic, who is a resident at Digby Court Care Home, in Christopher’s Lane, Bourne, was able to track down Roland’s family thanks to research from activities co-ordinator Maria Fryer.

The prayer book will be passed onto Roland’s nephew Brad when he visits London next week.

Roland survived the war and died in America in 1966.

Vic, who originates from Aslackby, said: “We landed against heavy German resistance at Salerno - we were expected.

“We ran for our lives up the beach trying to find cover, which is when I spotted the prayer book, I quickly picked it up and stuffed it in my pocket and did not give it a thought for possibly days or even weeks.

“I saw it on the ground, I just picked it up for no apparent reason.

“I have always thought that there was something personal about prayer books and Bibles.

“All I have wanted to do is put it back in the hands of the family.”

Vic had tried in the past to find the owners of the prayer book but was unsuccessful until he moved into Digby Court in December.

Using the internet, Maria was able to find the family.