DAVID ARNOLD - Happy days lost in sands of time

This mid-1930s scene shows kneeling in the foreground my mother Rita - nee Gillett, now aged 85. Behind her is Sheila Moppett, her brother Dennis, of course, is on the right, and to the left is his father Bill.
This mid-1930s scene shows kneeling in the foreground my mother Rita - nee Gillett, now aged 85. Behind her is Sheila Moppett, her brother Dennis, of course, is on the right, and to the left is his father Bill.
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Reader Roger Bristow sent me the following letter in

respect of the Dennis Moppett story that appeared in this column a fortnight ago.

Dennis was a young man from Lewes who joined the RAF soon after the start of the Second World War, was posted to the Far East and had the misfortune to be captured by the Japanese.

He died of disease brought on by malnutrition and mistreatment in a POW camp on the tropical island of Java in January 1945. Roger says: “I was very interested to see you writing about Dennis Moppett in the Sussex Express.

“I bought your book ‘Seventy Years On’ when it was first published. It was marvelous to see so many of Dennis’s letters reproduced there.

“You may be interested in the attached photograph taken in the mid-1930s, I suppose. Kneeling in the foreground is my mother Rita – nee Gillett, now aged 85. Behind her is Sheila Moppett. Her brother Dennis, of course, is on the right. And to the left is his father Bill. Obviously it’s on a beach somewhere, possibly Newhaven. Goodness knows who took the picture but most likely it was Dennis’s mother.”

The young airman often mentioned his sister in the letters he wrote in the POW camp but never got to post.

One dated 6th September 1943 reads: “I can’t imagine what my big sister of 18 looks like now. She must be a fine young lady and how I wish I could see you, Sheila.

“I wonder if you still go to school. Perhaps you are married – but I hope not because I do so want to go to your wedding. I remember how lovely the weather can be at home in September.”

Youngest sister Felicity (Fifi) isn’t in the picture and it is more than possible that she hadn’t yet been born or at the very least was just a little baby.