University of Oxford
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Divergent Paths: The Lives of Elsie and Richard Castle

online resource
posted on 2024-06-05, 17:47 authored by Their Finest Hour Project Team

Elsie Castle nee Smith, British Red Cross of Ware, Herts. (born 15 Jul 1920). See ID card for her physical description. She was working in the Red Cross. She appears to have been a qualified nurse. Record shows her working in hospital settings. She was a young woman without children. Her first born was a daughter in 1950. She was married during the war to Richard Castle. She died late in the 1990s and had dementia. Richard outlived her.

She worked in Ware in Hertfordshire and Hertford but little else is known.

Elsie had a strong anti-Japanese view post-war due to mistreatment of family members as Japanese POWs.

Richard Sydney Castle, Royal Engineers, was her husband. From photos, it appears that he was a Sapper (Private).

In the group photo, he is fourth from left on top row. There are various North African photos of him. These show Royal Engineers working in a mine field. They appear to be marking the mine field. He has been issued 1939-45 Star, Africa Star, France and Germany Star, Defence Medal and War Medal 1939-45 which come with a paper record.

He served in 8th Army in North Africa with Royal Engineers and was a Montgomery fan. He told stories of having to move a grand piano around North Africa to entertain troops rather than share much of his warfighting experience.

He moved to the UK to train for D-Day. Before being deployed to Normandy on D+4 (10 Jun 44), he was 'in trouble' for leaving camp and missing training in Southern England (somewhere). He was believed to be involved in building Bailey Bridges as a Royal Engineer.

There is a single operational story of near-miss in which the comrade next to him in a forest in Germany got shot.

Post-war, Richard went to the British Protectorate of Palestine and took a view that Arabs and Jews there would never make peace; he felt the task was not achieving anything. It is not known when he was demobbed. He had been a roofer pre-war, became a joiner post-war and returned to family, having three children together. He died in February 2008.

The RAF pin was a 'sweetheart pin' given by Elsie's brother to an unknown wartime sweetheart!


Item list and details

1. British Red Cross hat 2. Uniform badges x 3 3. Photos of nurses 4. Book regarding Red Cross Hospital 5. Middle East forces air movement 6. 4 handbooks/manuals 7. ID card 8. Red Cross qualifications certificates 9. British dog tag 10. Red Cross medal 11. Red Cross arm band 12. Photos- man in uniform army x 6 13. Photos- woman in nurse uniform 14. Photos- engineers working mine field in North Africa 15. Badges - 3 stars, 2 medals 16. Pin badge, Corp badge 17. D-Day local paper 6th June 1944

Person the story/items relate to

Elsie Castle and Richard Sydney Castle

Person who shared the story/items

Mark Andrew Readman

Relationship between the subject of the story and its contributor

Maternal grandparents

Type of submission

Shared at Thornton College, Buckinghamshire on 16 September 2023.

Record ID

93288 | THO023 (1/2)