FEW men can claim they have fought in two world wars.
Fewer still can say they did it while they represented two different nationalities.
West Hartlepool man George Henry Wenn could.
During the Great War, he wanted a taste for adventure.
And even though he started out as a member of the 3rd Northumbrian Field Artillery, he heard that the “new-fangled” Royal Flying Corps was after volunteers.
He put himself forward and was soon getting his wings.
But this was no easy journey. Back in those days, aeroplanes were in their infancy. And when George gave an interview to the Northern Daily Mail, we reported: “The machines were usually unproven, frail and often dangerous.
“And their firepower was vested in a lone machine-gun mounted on the bonnet.”
George faced the daily possibility of being knocked out of the sky by his own guns.
Our report explained how the machine guns often didn’t work properly and, instead of firing between the revolving propeller blades, would frequently fail.
And that meant the pilot’s guns were susceptible to slicing off their own propeller blades. Even if the plane survived its own hazards, it still had to face the enemy – and George was shot down three times as he saw service over France, Italy, Egypt, Greece and Turkey.
But he survived and came back to West Hartlepool to take over a motorcycle business, in Surtees Street.
It could have been his future, but a relative came back to West Hartlepool in 1925, from a visit to the USA.
He talked George into selling up the business and heading across the pond.
He headed for Ohio first and then Brooklyn and, in 1930, joined up for the United States Army Air Force.
And when war broke out in 1939, the Lieutenant Colonel was sent to Britain to work as an air controller. He saw out the rest of the war in the country of his birth before becoming an aluminium businessman.
Then, the Korean War started, and he was called up again, and spent many years in the construction of airfields.
Finally, peace came to Lt Col George Henry Wenn, and he headed back to the USA, taking time in 1958 to speak to the Northern Daily Mail, and to spent a three month holiday in town.
He passed comment on the difference between the USA and Britain, and said: “I think the workman in America has a better time really. The average American has a greater margin of pay left after buying food and other household goods than the British workman has.”
We would love to know more about George Henry Wenn. Did you know him or perhaps you were related to him? If so, tell us more about the man who fought in two world wars and another major conflict.
Contact Chris Cordner by emailing email@example.com or telephoning (01429) 239377.