To honour those who served their country

“In this their finest hour”



Ernest Hamlett

Ernest Hamlett.

(photograph taken in Italy 1943)


June 17, 1914

















May 27th, 2002



by Jean James


I was once a princess, the daughter of a king.

He taught me how to laugh, and he taught me how to sing.

He was just a little fellow, barely five foot five in all,

He kissed me when I cried, and he held me lest I fall.


I was once a princess, the daughter of a king.

He told me I must value life and everything it brings.

He wasn’t very famous, known only to a few,

And he always showed kindness to everyone he knew.


I was once a princess, the daughter of a king.

He taught me not to criticize - not for anything.

Said people might have problems that we could never know,

And we should just accept them wherever we may go.


I was once a princess, the daughter of a king.

He took me to the circus; he pushed me on a swing.

He told me I was wonderful, a fairy princess true,

But said I must be humble in everything I do.


I was once a princess, the daughter of a king.

By his own example, he gave me everything.

Often I have failed him, though he said to do my best,

And now the day is here where he is laid to rest.


He was just a common soldier, a father and a king.

And to this man of honour I still wish to cling,

I thank him for his love and faith, his guidance and his trust.

And, though I’ll miss him dearly, part with him I must.


Somewhere in this world, there’ll be a princess with no king.

And I know he has to go to her to fix up everything.

Behind the scenes, unknown to all, he’ll guard her as an angel,

And I know he has a job to do, as he is so very able.


So, just as he has taught me, I will share with her my king,

And I know he’d never leave me – not for anything.

Just an ordinary father, a husband and a friend,

He’ll never really leave us. His work will never end.


He’ll still be guarding over us, as is a soldier’s way,

He’ll be doing volunteering and working every day.

He’ll be teaching little children that peace must be our quest;

Teaching little children that peacetime is the best.


He’ll teach them, by example, some values to stop war,

So please salute my father as he passes through the door.

And when I pass that way myself, I hope that when we meet,

I can look him in the eye, and not down at my feet.

Like every other princess and the children of a king,

Our fathers were just common men who gave us everything



by Jean James ©2003


Manchester born Ernest Hamlett was called up to the Durham Light Infantry in 1939 for training at Palace Barracks. With the formation of the 1st Airborne Division, he transferred into the Border Regiment, 1st Battalion, as a signaller serving in Italy, Sicily, North Africa and Arnhem until the end of World War II.

On 17th September 1944, Hamlett arrived at Arnhem, Holland, by glider in the 1st Airlanding of the Battle of Arnhem. On Tuesday, 19th September, Lieutenant John Bainbridge was ordered to move his men to a crossroads north of Heveadorp to observe and report on any enemy movement heading eastwards towards lower Oosterbeek. Due to heavily wooded terrain, the number 18 wireless set that he operated did not work properly, and Hamlett was unable to contact Company HQ, based a mile away, to confirm that they had arrived at the destination.

The next afternoon, a German armoured car, and infantry was observed moving towards No. 19 Platoon's position from a westerly direction along the Oosterbeekscheweg, unaware that British opposition was dug in ahead of them. Once within range a PIAT destroyed the armoured car with a single shot, while a Bren gun caused the infantry to disperse into the woods. As this action had exposed the Platoon, they could no longer observe enemy movements on the road, so Lieutenant Bainbridge divided his men into two groups and ordered a phased withdrawal back to D Company. Hamlett and Ron Graydon ran down the road together, eventually meeting up with C Company, before being able to return to D Company later that night.

Communications continued to be a problem for the troops because of the wooded terrain. When in a slit trench, Hamlett tried in vain to raise a signal and, wondering if there was something wrong with the batteries, he asked a corporal for a relief while he went in search of batteries. The corporal changed places with him himself. After this happened, the corporal took a direct hit inside the trench. Hamlett carried him to the casualty station, but he died within the hour.

During the battle, a mortar bomb struck Hamlett's foot and broke his ankle but, fortunately, it did not explode. "It didn't explode, Ron!" he had exclaimed to his signaller partner, Ron Graydon. He was captured by the Germans on September 26 and sent to Stalag XIB, at Fallingbostel, Germany, traveling in a crowded, dark cattle rail car in appalling conditions, the men becoming so thirsty that they resorted to drinking their own urine. His ankle received no treatment except for a bandage but, despite the injury, he was forced to work down the Bad Grund lead mine for the next seven and a half months. The mortar bomb had blown the gaiter of Hamlett's ankle when he was hit, and he had to find an old boot to support his swollen broken ankle so that he could work. If the prisoners did not work, they were not fed. All they were given to eat was thin cabbage soup, but a few of the overseers in the mine took pity on the men and slipped them crusts of black bread. For their compassion, the prisoners gave them the coffee from their rarely received Red Cross parcels.

A gentleman and a soldier to the end, Hamlett will best be remembered for having survived these hardships with his honour, sense of humour and compassion for others still in tact as, even in these harsh circumstances, he would not allow his cheerful side to desert him. He did his best to raise smiles from those around him, and always felt there were others worse off than himself. There was a record player in the hut at the prison camp. After finishing his shift at the mine he would always put on the only record they had, called "Hail Smiling Morn!", to awaken the next shift who, in return, pelted him with their boots. Hamlett was described by fellow signaller, Private Ron Graydon, as being as brave and as fine a fighting partner as a man could wish for, always doing his best to find a cheerful perspective, and help keep people’s spirits up, no matter what the situation.

In April, 1945, with the war almost at an end and American forces nearing the area, the Germans quickly evacuated the prisoners from the mine and forced them to join a column of other workers who were marched eastwards for the next three days. The men were very weak and struggled to walk, and those who collapsed were shot by the guards, as were those who tried to help them. The Americans, furious at news of this atrocity, caught up with the column shortly afterwards and the atrocities were avenged. (This march is described in the book, Last Escape by John Nicol and Tony Rennell, published by Viking Penguin.) Since being posted missing at Arnhem, Hamlett's wife had received no word of his fate until he arrived on her front doorstep one day, carrying a Red Cross parcel, and totally emaciated. He had been "missing in action" for seven and a half months. After a brief rest period, he returned to Army service until the end of the war.

Upon demob, Hamlett joined the Territorial Army in Manchester (service No. 22244845), taking a parachuting course in Oxfordshire, where he earned his wings as a paratrooper and became a member of the Parachute Regiment (TA). He served nearly three years with the Territorials, receiving an exemplary discharge on November 28th, 1950. Upon discharge from the Border Regiment,  Hamlett's military conduct was also recorded as being “exemplary” and he was given the following testimony: "Much above the average in every way. Smart, clean. Has done very well in the unit. Is able to hold a position of responsibility without supervision. Thoroughly recommended for good employment. A pleasant personality.", signed by A. S. Richardson, No.67 Transit Camp, Dovercourt, 15th January 1946.

Hamlett was born at 37 Buxton Street, Manchester, on the 17th June 1914. He was schooled at St. Andrew's in Ardwick and, at the age of eleven joined the 27th Manchester Division of Boys Brigade, based at Jackson Street in Chorlton-cum-Hardy. It was here, under the tutelage of Dan Griffin, that his life-long passion for music began, being particularly fond of military music, brass bands, and bagpipes. He learned to play the cornet, euphonium, piano, and percussion instruments. Hamlett would go camping with the Brigade and developed an interest in outdoor pursuits, such as hiking, cycling, and sports, and especially cricket. Leaving St. Andrew's at fourteen years old, he furthered his education by taking night school courses. He became an officer in the Boys Brigade and remained with them until his call-up came at the age of twenty-six.

After the war, he returned to his job at Sutcliffe's, Manchester, before leaving to become a salesman at Langden's in Liverpool which, amongst other things, supplied tents and uniforms to the British military. A member of the Commercial Travellers’ Association, he specialized in blue jeans and was the first commercial traveller to introduce them into Britain after the war.  His career included work as a salesman for Lee Cooper’s, and he won top salesman award several times while working for H.Varley.

In 1958, Hamlett moved to Heald Green, Cheshire, where he lived until the mid 70s when, at the age of 62, he moved to Canada to be near his family. He immediately found employment at Edward Chapman's, an exclusive menswear retailer in Vancouver. A British Columbia resident for over twenty-five years, he served with the Commissionaire Corps in Victoria for thirteen of them, during which time the Lieutenant Governor awarded him two medals. Hamlett returned to Arnhem with his wife, for the first and only time, in 1990, where they stayed with a family at Velp. He was ever a great proponent of the Dutch people.

He passed away in Canada on May 27, 2002, and is survived by Anne, his wife of 62 years; son, Christopher; daughter, Jean; and grandson, Dane. Anyone who remembers Ernest is invited to contact his daughter,  Jean James at

Thanks to Mark Hickman at  for help with this biography, and the information obtained from When Dragons Flew, by Stuart Eastwood, Charles Gray and Alan Green - a history of The Border Regiment, in which Hamlett is mentioned on page 134.




This poem is from an anthology of poetry composed by the late Colin Fowler, who served with the 20 Platoon D Company of the First Airborn, First Battalion, Border Regiment.  A collection of his poems can be found in the book, When Dragons Flew, which is a book about the history of the Border Regiment, and in which Ernie also gets a mention.




Those lazy coils of tow-ropes laid

Along the runways all displayed,

To herald an amazing feat,

The take-off, of an Airborne fleet;

Dakotas, Stirlings, in position

Airborne troops of the First Division,

All waiting for the last command

To lift this army from the land.


The word at last, the engines roared,

The tow-ropes leapt with one accord,

Between the planes and Horsa gliders,

Linking tugs and glider riders.

Lifting the first the gliders rose,

The tow-ropes whipped from tail to nose.


September Forty Four it was, at noon as I recall,

A sunny day, a pleasant day, a day to suit us all,

And as we climbed into the sky,

A sight so marvelous met the eye,

Three hundred Horsa gliders flew,

Above the slipstream, straight and true.


Then out unto the Netherlands,

This giant fleet prepared to land,

The canopies of parachutes

Just filled the air like summer fruits.

As idle domes they floated down,

To land so softly on the ground;

Then suddenly our hearts stood still,

The tow-ropes gone, and what a thrill

To watch the ground come up to meet

The gliders of this airborne fleet.


We hit the ground and skidded on,

The landings safe, the first job done,

Machine-guns chattered, rifles cracked,

But through all this the troops unpacked,

Then moved off at a hasty pace,

Eight miles to go, to each that place,

Called ARNHEM.


''Our Thanks are for being a Chapter in Life.''




Keeping The Candle Burning


Fepow Family

In Memory of FEPOW Family Loved Ones
Designed and Maintained by Ron Taylor.


[FEPOW Family] [Roll of Honour] [H]


Honorary Life Member-1tn

Honorary Life Member of COFEPOW


Email Ron Taylor 


Copyright © FEPOW Family