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Newmarket military historian puts a face to the name of a young soldier killed during the liberation of The Netherlands nearly 80 years ago

A Newmarket historian’s research has ended the search for relatives of a young soldier killed during the liberation of The Netherlands nearly 80 years ago.

Tony Pringle was quickly in action when the Newmarket Journal newspaper, part of the Suffolk News publishing group, passed on an email from a volunteer researcher at the Commonweath War Graves Commission (CWGC) cemetery at Venray in the south of Holland.

Theo Vervoort was seeking information about Pte Adrian Grant Duff Wilson of the 1st Bn Gordon Highlanders who was 26 when he was killed by enemy fire in the village of Neer on November 16 1944.

Theo works for a foundation which encourages local people to adopt war graves at Venray and contacted the Journal on behalf of Bram Fleuren, who tends Pte Wilson’s grave and wanted a photo of the soldier and information about his family.

The link with Newmarket proved misleading because the CWGC had wrongly recorded Pte Wilson’s parents as being from the town, but Tony soon discovered they had lived in Edinburgh where their son was born in 1918.

But Tony did establish a connection with the town because Pte Wilson’s wife, Patricia Muriel, nee Ansell, was from Newmarket where she was born in 1919 and where she lived until she signed up for war service in the Auxiliary Territorial service, the women’s branch of the British Army during World War II.

She met Pte Wilson in Dover during the build-up to the Normandy landings in 1944 and they were married on June 3, 1944, three days before D-Day and only five months before her husband’s death. She returned to Newmarket where she worked at the post office until 1964 but never re-married.

Tony has made contact with John Ansell, Patricia’s nephew who lives in Newmarket. “It came a quite a surprise when Tony got in touch with me,” he said. “He said I was the only Ansell in the phone book and just gave it a try.

“I remember my aunt but all we knew about her husband was that he had died in the war. I found a photo of their wedding and Tony sent a copy of it to the chap in Holland.”

Part of the photo with Pte Wilson’s face has been printed on a metal plate and will be placed on his grave.

“Now he has a face forever,” said Theo.