Eric West 1919-1992, and Geoffrey West 1924-1946

2nd Lieutenant Geoffrey West, 1924-1946

Eric West’s younger brother Geoffrey West enlisted as an officer in the Royal Engineers in the later part of World War Two.  He was sent to India as was part of the garrison protecting North East India against possible Japanese invasion.  When the war ended the British garrison remained in place.  My uncle was initially homesick and then developed an illness that would now be recognised as severe clinical depression, culminating in his suicide at the age of 22 years.  My father, having not seen or heard from his younger brother since 1940, would have been confronted with this news after his return from captivity.  My uncle Geoffrey’s suicide, like my father’s captivity, was never spoken about in our family.  2nd-Lt Geoffrey West is buried in Delhi Commonwealth War Cemetery and on a visit to India in 2007 I was able to visit his grave.

Dehli Commonwealth War Cemetery in 2007
2nd Lt Geoffrey West's grave in 2007
2nd Lt Geoffrey West’s grave in 2007

Dr Eric Douglas West, 1919- 1992

Eric West became a Fellow of the Royal College of Physicians and after his death, at the age of 73 years, his College obituary was written by Dr H.R. Rollin.  The part of the obituary relevant to his wartime service reads:

Eric West’s route to the top of his chosen profession was unconventional. The son of a manager of a pipe factory in South London, he was the oldest of three brothers, the youngest of whom died on active service in India in 1945.  He was educated at local schools in the Surrey but before he could complete his studies to university entrance level he enlisted in the Royal Artillery.  In 1940, aged 21, he was a member of the ill-fated British Expeditionary Force and in the retreat to Dunkirk he had the misfortune to be captured by the Germans.

Typical of his intellectual prowess and his steely determination, West used his long years of captivity to the best possible advantage.  With what available facilities there were he studied German to such good effect that he was able to act as camp interpreter.  He made little mention of his POW experiences, but it was known among his colleagues that he had had a rough time, and that he had suffered physical maltreatment.  It was perhaps his own suffering, and that of his fellow prisoners, that prompted his interest in medicine in general and in psychiatry in particular.  He was liberated by the Americans in 1945.’

 

Lance Bombardier Eric West RA with his three children, circa 1970, including the author of this website (standing).