Personal Stories of the Second World War – Part 1

In the run up to the opening of our new Spitfire Gallery in 2021 we’re starting to collect the personal stories and memories of life and service during the Second World War..

If you have a story to share, contact us at

Les Roberts, one of our Visitor Services Team, tells his family story:

My dad, Leslie Roberts, and his brother, Kenneth, both fought in the Second World War and were some of the few British born black soldiers in domestic regiments. My Grandfather, John Roberts was one of the first black men to settle in Stoke-on-Trent after coming over from Sierre Leone and fighting in the First World War. Later, he was an Air Raid Patrol Warden during the Second World War.

John Roberts

My dad and uncle were both keen boxers. My Uncle Ken’s professional boxing career was stopped by the war. Before signing up he was managed by Jack Fitzgerald who also managed Tut Whalley and Tiny Bostock. He continued boxing while he was a Driver with the Royal Army Service Corps as well as being a PE Instructor.  In 1942 he won a medal for middleweight Inter-Battalion boxing.

My dad was only 13 when the war broke out. He was called up aged 18 and served with the North Stafford Regiment (Prince of Wales). He was part of the D-Day landings in 1944, landing on Gold beach and then fought his way through France and Germany with the Allied forces. He also helped to liberate Nazi concentration camps.

Leslie Roberts (senior)

After being a Driver, my Uncle Ken volunteered as paratrooper with the 21st Independent Parachute Company. He tragically died at Arnhem during the failed Operation Market Garden in 1944. Years later my Grandmother received a letter from another soldier at Arnhem, Peter George Delduca, explaining that Ken lost his life saving a friend who was still on the bridge. He died of his wounds in the Hospital at Jonkerbos on 29th September 1944, aged 23. He is buried at Jonkerbos War Cemetery, near Nijmegen in The Netherlands.

Ken Roberts with other soldiers, back row, 3rd from right
Written by admin - Modified by Joe Perry (Curator, Local History)

4 thoughts on “Personal Stories of the Second World War – Part 1”

  1. Betty Birkin says:

    What a lovely and brave man .we need more stories like this .thank you to the family for sharing. X

  2. Carol Roberts says:

    My husbands dad and grandad

  3. K Howell says:

    What an absolutely wonderful story thank you so much for sharing it. I have visited that cemetery and so many Staffordshire lads lost their lives in that operation. A friend of mine her dad survived but lost his leg.

  4. Karen Harvey says:

    Thank you for sharing such a wonderful story we need more of these stories telling, and, in light of what is going on in the world today with the BLM protests is very appropriate. Knowing that your dad and uncle played a part in freeing Britain from a tyrannical leader is a truly great legacy.

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