Stan Boxall, Red Devil, Airborne Division

My mother met Stan Boxall at the Eagle Social and Cycling Club in Charlton, and they were together from about 1942 to 1944.

Stan Boxall, Red Devil, Airborne Division
Stan Boxall, Devonshire Regiment, Red Devil in the Airborne Division.

My mother met Stan Boxall at the Eagle Social and Cycling Club in Charlton, in south west London, and they were boyfriend and girlfriend for about two years, from 1942 to 1944.

Stan joined the Devonshire Regiment, then transferred to the Airborne Division and became a 'Red Devil'. Stan and my mother wrote to each other daily, and she was painfully aware of the dangerous job he was doing, preparing to drop by parachute or glider into enemy territory. Suddenly my mother received a letter to say that Stan had been seriously wounded. She didn't know for several weeks where he was, or how he was.

I believe that Stan was wounded at Arnhem in September 1944, so he may have been in the 1st Airborn Division. Of around 10,600 men of the 1st Airborne Division who fought at Arnhem, 7,899 were killed, wounded, or captured.

My mother visited Stan in hospital in Wales, where he was recuperating after an operation to remove his diaphragm muscle. She was pleased to find that he was recovering well and was able to walk out with her. They decided to go to the cinema, and they watched 'For Whom the Bell Tolls'. After the film they went to a cafe, where Stan told her the sad news that according to the doctors he was unlikely to be able to have children.

My mother tried to reassure him that it didn't much matter, but at that time her sister was pregnant, and she must have been thinking that she would like to have a family one day. There was a lady and a child sitting at a table nearby. My mother was sure that they did not hear our conversation but as they left the tearoom the woman placed a half a crown on the table. The people of the town had overwhelmed the wounded soldiers with kindness and generosity. My mother returned home the next day feeling rather sad. A few weeks later Stan was discharged from the army. He didn't wish to see her again.

Many years later, I asked my father whether he believed that Stan had really broken up with my mother because he could not have children. My father had also been a friend of Stan's when he was in the Cycling Club, and remembered him as a very decent and honourable chap. He had no doubt that it was true.

Stan married Mary Cecilia Osborn in 1949, and they emigrated to Australia, where, despite fears for his ability to have children, his daughter Cecilia Jane was born (now Jane Dyer). Stan, Mary, and Jane returned to Dartford, Kent in 1960. Sadly Mary passed away in 1974. Stan remarried in 1975, and although this second marriage lasted 20 years, it was a difficult and unhappy time for the family. Two years after her death, Stan moved to Lincolnshire to be close to his daughter, where he passed away in 1998. Since sharing Stan's story I have been in touch with Jane, and I was thankful to hear that his final year, close to her, was a happy one.

My mother in the centre and Stan on the right

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