In 2014, when our grandchildren, Anna and Thomas Lightfoot were 5 years old, my daughter-in-law Denise asked me if I would compile a Lightfoot Family History for the kids.  I agreed, not realising it was to end up being a labour of love for almost 2 years.

It’s not the sort of thing I would have thought about doing, even though my father was from a large family and over the years his siblings along with my mother and some of her family had decided I was to be the keeper of a variety of historical family paraphernalia that rarely came out of their boxes, packets and old envelopes. Usually that only happened if it was thought it would settle a family argument.  However, in the very olden days and even today, the lack of information on the back of photos and other keepsakes means that a huge amount of stuff is useless really.  A photo of an old man smoking a pipe is not of much use if all the people who know who he is, are dead.

Fortunately, my mother Ena, was quite switched on and did the best she could by writing on the back of photos who or what she thought they were about, before she passed away.

The one person she knew everything about and made copious notes about was her brother and only sibling, Jack.  Sadly, Jack was killed in action in 1944, only 3 days before my first birthday.  He had sent me a 1st Birthday card that I still have and cherish.

When I got to the section in my book that was about my mother’s parents and family, I had all of the photos Jack had enclosed in the many letters he wrote to her, plus the very interesting and heavily censored letters.  Absolutely fascinating to read.  To save time I will now print the page in my book that is so weird.  See what you think of it.

Previous Pages contain Information about my mother’s brother – John Heron or my Uncle Jack.  Amongst the photos I have is one with Mersa Matruh written on the back.  I think Jack took it, or possessed it, because of his sense of humour regarding the business name of MARKS AND SPENCER.  I had never heard of Mersa Mutruh and whilst researching it via Google I was absolutely amazed to find a war game that uses exactly the same scene as in Jack’s photo.

I have copied them both here and highlighted the LAUNDRY lettering with a red oblong outside it, and underlined in red the Arabic writing to the top left hand side of it, which has been replicated exactly on the computer graphics picture.  Marks and Spencer has been omitted from the game picture.   I also include on this page some of the text from the website that refers to the allied forces being in there.  Jack was taken prisoner in Tobruk but escaped after 10 days and re-joined his unit.  Jack sent home 20 or so photos of him and his colleagues in Alexandria and Cairo, with 2 or 3 copies of some.  A letter Jack wrote to his friend on 19 April 1942 from N Africa is in his things that are in my study.

There may have been an enterprising Arab cameraman taking pictures of the soldiers, or for the soldiers, for a fee.  If so, there could be a lot of copies of the Laundry still in existence.

Mersa Matruh was the last obstacle eastwards before El Alamein for Rommel’s troops, right after his Afrika Korps had recaptured Gazala and overwhelmed Tobruk only days before. The Wehrmacht captured 32,000 prisoners, 2,000 tons of fuel, 5,000 tons of food and 2,000 vehicles on the 21st of June 1942.

Heavily defeated, the British continued retreating and set up in Mersa Matruh.  General Auchinleck took over command personally to hold off the now re-supplied German troops.  On the 26th of June 1942, 3 days after Rommel asked for permission to advance into Egypt, the Afrika Korps was on the move again, with Rommel made a Field Marshal the same day.

Unluckily for the British troops they saw themselves surrounded and cut off only a few hours later. On the 27th of June 1942 there was only one chance left for the besieged Allied Troops as the Germans try to outflank their positions: Breakout!  Mersa Matruh fell on the 29th of June after heavy fighting. The Afrika Korps captured 6,000 prisoners along with large quantities of supplies and continued on its way to El Alamein.

However, Gunner John Heron, serving in the 8th Army Royal Regiment of Artillery was not with the surrounded troops at the time.  He was probably in Alexandria or possibly Cairo, which the allied forces held and managed to retain.

John Heron Lightfoot MBE, Solar Solve Chairman

Matruh Laundry
This photo, one of quite a few he sent his sister Ena, of Mersa Matruh in 1942, is in my family collection of Jack’s memorabilia.
Matruh Game
This computer generated picture is in a video game and can be found on this website page

Forgotten Hope 2 is an award-winning not-for-profit World War II modification for Battlefield 2TM and is based on the original Forgotten Hope, a modification for Battlefield 1942TM, one of the most popular multiplayer games ever. Battlefield 1942TM featured land, sea and air combat in a way never before seen. It was the goal of the development team to maximize the game experience by adding both a realistic and enjoyable gameplay to FH and now to FH2.