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Former GI sends plea from Texas to find city family

PUBLISHED: 15:58 09 April 2010 | UPDATED: 09:33 02 July 2010

Ride em cowboy. This was the day the Wild West came to the Wild East and the Yanks staged a Grand Rodeo at Carrow Road in the summer of 1943.

Ride em cowboy. This was the day the Wild West came to the Wild East and the Yanks staged a Grand Rodeo at Carrow Road in the summer of 1943.

Derek James

As he relaxes at his home in Texas an elderly man thinks back more than 65 years…to life in Norwich during the second world war and remembers a family which took him under their wing.

As he relaxes at his home in Texas an elderly man thinks back more than 65 years…to life in Norwich during the second world war and remembers a family which took him under their wing.

His name is Clarence John Leleux Jr., but the family he is looking for called him John and he has never forgotten their kindness when he was a young man a long way from home.

“During my time in England I met a family at the Manor House pub in Norwich. They were Stan and Connie Copeman,” says CJ.

“They lived at 35 Shorncliffe Avenue near the pub. They had two daughters, Vera and Joyce and a young son Dan,” he recalls.

“Dan was a young boy about five years old, Vera was married and her husband was about to go off to war. Joyce was single and working as a nurse in Ipswich,” he says.

About once a month CJ, an aircraft and engine mechanic who worked on B-24 bombers based at various bases across East Anglia including Seething, got a liberty pass and headed into Norwich to see the family he had made such good friends with.

He brought cigarettes for Stan and gum and candy but adds: “I particularly liked to buy them tea, sugar and cream which was so hard for them to find,” he adds.

CJ enjoyed, as many GI's did, a gamble. Big money often changed hands, and one week he really did hit the jackpot.

“I won more than £400 and I brought the money to Connie in Norwich for safe keeping. We later planned a trip to Liverpool with the whole family. We stayed at her brothers and went to his favourite pub. Being a Yank I was the featured guest and we sang all the favourite songs, including God Save the King,” he remembers.

After the war CJ continued to work in the airforce, later took a degree in chemical engineering and then travelled America working the oil and energy business.

He married Josephine after the war and they had three daughters. She died in 2007 and he now lives alone in Houston, Texas.

If you are a member of the Copeman family or knows what happened to them then CJ would love to hear from you and his address is cjleleux@hal-pic.org

And let me know how you get on.

By the time of the friendly invasion Norwich was a city which had been torn apart in the savage bombing raids of 1942 which destroyed great chunks of the city centre and residential areas.

It Blitz caused widespread death and destruction but it made the people more determined than ever to win the war.

The Yanks were like a blast of hot air on a cold day although there were those who claimed they were “overpaid, oversexed and over here.”

But many friendships were formed between the people of Norwich and Norfolk and the young men who arrived to help fight for our freedom - many never returned home and died in the bombing missions over Europe.

Others met local girls, fell in love and were married - they were the GI brides who set sail for a new life across the pond after the war had ended.

Other friendships have been passed on from one generation to the next.

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