In 1943, 11-year-old Peter Hunter was knocked down walking home from school, near Uckfield, by a motorcycle. It resulted in a broken leg, and a stay in the local Cottage Hospital, but also an unexpected friendship with 19-year-old Canadian dispatch rider, Lance Corporal Lorne Andrew Marr.
Known only to Peter as ‘Lorne’, sadly, the friendship was short-lived, as he was killed in France the following August. However, this wasn’t the end of the story. Almost 50 years later, after rediscovering a photo of Lorne during a house move, East Grinstead based retired police detective, Peter, set about a different sort of detective work.
After making enquiries, Peter was able to trace Lorne’s surname, rank and service number, and found that his grave was in the Canadian memorial cemetery in Calais. The details were scant, and no information on Lorne’s family was available.
Following an extensive search through correspondence with the Records Office and Canadian veterans, he established that 267 men from the Argyll and Sutherland Highlander of Canada Regiment had been killed, two of whom were called Lorne.
Using the old photo, Peter was able to identify ‘his’ Lorne as Lance Corporal Lorne Andrew Marr. After visiting his grave in France, it was many years later that Peter received a phone call from Lorne’s nephew and his wife from Canada.
The pair travelled to Calais with Peter to pay their respects. Peter learnt that Lorne was one of six siblings and something of a prolific letter writer, who left many messages for his family, which remain to this day – the last one was sent from France, a week before his death.
Inspired by the friendship, and the passing of such a young man, Peter has written and published a short book, written in the form of letters. Peter describes Lorne’s gifts of cigarette cards and chewing gum, brought to him at the hospital and the fact that it was Peter’s father, PC Hunter, who took a statement after the accident.
There are stories of army dances with Peter’s mother playing the accordion and Peter and Lorne fishing together for trout. Driven by propaganda, Peter wanted to keep a look out for any German spies who might land by parachute, dressed as nuns.
In one memory, Peter’s father seemed to anticipate the danger that Lorne was in, and warned him to, ‘Get rid of that blasted machine. A dispatch rider is a sniper’s dream.’
As suddenly as they had arrived, the Canadians were gone. They left overnight, and there was no chance for the family to say goodbye. It was only the officer, who later called to the Hunters home to collect Lorne’s camera, which gave the news of the young man’s death.
You can buy Peter’s book for £5 direct from him. Contact: Mr P Hunter, 6, Gwynne Gardens, East Grinstead RH19 1PY
By Rachel Whitlam