The war veteran who came home to a Sunderland winter - and had to wear two pairs of pyjamas under his clothes

George Waller.
George Waller.
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The wonderful story of George Waller comes to us thanks to Trevor Thorne of the Sunderland Antiquarian Society.

We are indebted to Trevor and his help to reveal the tale of a man who left Sunderland at 14 for London, first working in a clay pipe manufacturers and then at a pasta maker.

Refuelling a Spitfire in Rimini, Italy, in 1944.

Refuelling a Spitfire in Rimini, Italy, in 1944.

George then served King and country in the Second World War in a most dramatic fashion.

He survived the bombing raids of German airplanes and the deadly risks of landmines.

So far, we have told how George served in North Africa and Italy in the Second World War - photographing the King, General Montgomery and Winston Churchill along the way.

Today, in the final part of George’s story, Trevor explains how George still had an influential role to play as war came to an end.

He was taken by truck to Offerton and given a shovel to clear snow. After nearly six years in the heat of foreign lands he nearly froze to death despite wearing two pairs of pyjamas under his clothes

Trevor Thorne

After years of serving his country round the world, George Waller was about to embark on another adventure.

His Arabic speaking improved when, at the end of the Second World War in 1945, he “volunteered” to go to Israel.

George was there as part of a peace-keeping force.

This meant transferring to Squadron number 208 from his old 24 unit which was being disbanded.

But despite the end of the global conflict, George was still very much involved in drama.

The State of Israel was created as the war ended but the allocation of this land was disputed.

The British including George’s squadron found themselves in a policing role.

His squadron had to fight separately both the Egyptian and Israeli Air Forces at times, losing four Spitfires during the period to combat.

Once again, though, George came through it all.

When that work was finished he was sent to Egypt late in 1947.

The failure of the Egyptian forces to prevent the State of Israel being created caused serious discontent in that country and blame was attached to King Farouk.

Rioting broke out in Cairo and George was given the job of guarding the WAAF (female air force personnel) offices.

Yet again, George was at the centre of some difficult times and yet again, he was up to the task.

At one time he saved the WAAF’s pet cat from rioters who tried to force entry to the building.

But he did his role in fine style yet again.

After so much travelling and experiences over so many years, it was then time to go home to Sunderland.

A “hero’s welcome” greeted George on his return home.

Needing a job, he went to Pallion Labour Exchange and was immediately employed by Durham County Council.

Told to meet at the Plaza Cinema the next day he was taken by truck to Offerton and given a shovel to clear snow.

After nearly six years in the heat of foreign lands he nearly froze to death despite wearing two pairs of pyjamas under his clothes.

A final amusing event related to his war took place when years later he visited Bedi’s dental practice in Stockton Road to have some filings.

Bedi senior looked in his mouth and noticed a black filling.

He called for his son (also a dentist on the premises) and when he came down from the floor above said: “See that black filling in his mouth, that’s my work from the North African desert in 1942!”

The filling was black because the army had used the equipment and materials they had found in a captured German field dental unit.

George Waller has had a long happy life, marrying Nora and having two children.

He still lives in the Newcastle Road area of the city.

We would love to hear from more people willing to share their lifetime’s memories, or perhaps tell us of the dramatic achievements of their ancestors. We also want to hear from those keen on telling us all about their family tree.

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