Echoes of the past: A tribute to Colin Thrippleton

Colin Thrippleton
Colin Thrippleton

Over the years I have received many telephone calls, emails and letters from readers who live in Brighouse. I have also received them from readers who are now expats. Brighouse folk who are now spread across the world, but have not forgotten their home town.

One of the regulars who has written to me for years is Colin Thrippleton. I had not heard from Colin for a while. I have now been contacted by his daughter Linda to tell me that Colin recently passed away. It was Colin’s regular contact with me and finding some of the letters I had sent him that prompted Linda to email me.

Colin Thrippleton

Colin Thrippleton

I say letters because Colin was not into high tech, it was even difficult telephoning him, through his hearing problems. Writing to him was the answer. We each enjoyed the letters we received from each other over a number of years. It is thanks to Linda that I can share an insight into her father’s very interesting life.

He was born in 1924, at 8 Haigh Street and attended St Joseph’s and St Martin’s schools. Colin was a star student, being awarded many prizes for his top grades. He was a reader and loved to read about the adventures of Biggles and Just William.

Colin’s father was in the First World War and was caught in a mustard gas attack, which was to effect his health from that day on. At the age of seven Colin lost his father through deteriorating health problems. His widowed mother with help from close relatives brought the children up.

Leaving school at 14 he was apprenticed by Charles Hollingdrake, whose store was at numbers13,15 and 17 King Street. His duties included working as a chauffeur, carpet and curtain fitter.

At the age of 19, it was time for Colin to serve his King and Country. On November 30 1942, he travelled from Brighouse railway station with Samuel Bottomley, who later died whilst on active service.

Both were posted to Pwllheli, North Wales, on the HMS Glendower training ship. Colin did well, Leading Stoker, he was even recommended for officer training but he declined. Active service started from Portsmouth on the HMS Ramillies and then HMS Colossus, working in the engine room. For a young lad from Brighouse travelling around the world was a real adventure, and a dangerous one .

On ‘D’ Day Colin found his ship involved firing at the German army positions inland, to help the troops on the beaches. One of his lasting memories was in August 1945. He was in a barber’s shop in Sydney having his haircut, when an announcement came of the radio that the atom bomb had been dropped on Hiroshima.

It was not long after that Colin was reunited with a number of Brighouse seamen: Jack Robinson; Roy Knowles and torpedo man Albert Cropper. A welcome sight was Harry Dale, who had been held as a prisoner by the Japanese.

With Colin’s war service over he returned to civvy street back at Hollingdrake’s. In 1947 he started working in a foundry, but a year later he was working at Brighouse Baths in Mill Royd Street. Then in 1951 he changed his job for the last time. His next 37 years were spent working at T.F.Firth’s in the boiler room as a heating fireman.

In retirement Colin and his wife Betty who were married in 1948, they’d had four children, seven grandchildren and one great grandchild, it was all about family for them both.

In 1994 Colin joined many other ex-servicemen at the French celebrations for the 50th Anniversary of ‘D’ Day, on the P & O Canberra cruise liner. A moving occasion for Colin and his old shipmates, remembering those that did not come home.

In 2016 Colin decided to return to his military background by choosing to live at a Royal British Legion Care Home in Ripon. He was a great story teller, all the staff loved to hear his exploits on the warships.

Colin like all the residents at the home were all treated with dignity and the true wartime heroes they all were. In Colin’s case leaving his home in Brighouse as a young lad and returning as a man with his head held high and proud that he had come to the country’s need.

On Remembrance Day 2016, Colin took part in the service in Ripon proudly wearing his medals and poppy, as he did every year. Including the Legion de Honour medal for Liberating France from occupation, which he was awarded in 2016.

On February 2 2017, two days before his 93rd birthday Colin peacefully passed away. Although I never met Colin, I felt I knew him through his fascinating letters and recollections of his life in old Brighouse - RIP old friend.