BY SOPHIA FURBER
A SECOND World War veteran’s 60-year mission to return his fallen comrade’s rosary beads has ended – at his next-door neighbours’ house.
Pte Tom Jackson, who died in 2000, was given the rosary by Pte Tom Cloughton when the pair were serving in France in the 8th Battalion of the Durham Light Infantry.
Pte Cloughton, a Catholic, gave his friend the beads after he was injured in battle.
He asked Pte Jackson to keep them safe as he thought it was more likely that he would survive. Pte Jackson then resolved to return the rosary to Pte Cloughton’s family.
In an extraordinary coincidence, Mr Jackson’s widow Vera finally succeeded in tracing Pte Cloughton’s family, only to find that she was connected to them by marriage through her next-door neighbours in Darlington, Co Durham.
Two of Pte Cloughton’s descendants were presented with the rosary in an emotional meeting last week.
Mrs Jackson said: “Tom always wanted to find the family. I really couldn’t believe it when we found the relatives after all this time, but especially with the connection with next door.
“I’m sure if Tom was here now he’d be thrilled to bits.” Following Mr Jackson’s death his widow continued his search, placing numerous appeals in newspapers and magazines. After many fruitless attempts to trace Pte Cloughton’s family a distant relative saw a letter in a local magazine. Gladys Dodd, from Darlington, saw the letter by chance and contacted Mrs Jackson. “I couldn’t believe that her brother, Tom, is married to my next-door neighbour’s daughter. All this time and the answer was on my doorstep,” said Mrs Jackson.
Pte Jackson, a regimental driving instructor, last saw Pte Cloughton during the Dunkirk evacuation in 1940.
Seriously injured, Pte Jackson took no more part in the conflict and returned to Darlington, where he met his future wife, Vera. He never saw Pte Cloughton again, but continued his search until he died.
The Jacksons later found out that Pte Cloughton had died in action in Tunisia in 1943 and is buried in the Medjez-el-Bab war cemetary.
Mrs Jackson said that her husband had pointed out Pte Cloughton in a photo of their regiment but had no idea where he came from or how to go about tracing him.
Tom Cloughton, Pte Cloughton’s great-nephew, told reporters that he intends to make the rosary a family heirloom.
“We will treasure this rosary and are passing it on to the only man in the next generation of our family, Peter, ” he said.
This week the international community remembered the end of the Second World War and the nuclear bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.