Brother finds sister - after 63 years

SUE SKINNER For years John Hannant kept a photograph of his long-lost sister, gazing at it occasionally and wondering if they would ever find each other again.The young woman in her smart RAF uniform had joined the war effort in about 1940, when he was still a baby and living at the family home at Stiffkey on the North Norfolk coast.

SUE SKINNER

For years John Hannant kept a photograph of his long-lost sister, gazing at it occasionally and wondering if they would ever find each other again.

The young woman in her smart RAF uniform had joined the war effort in about 1940, when he was still a baby and living at the family home at Stiffkey on the north Norfolk coast.

Margery, the eldest of the three children, would bring model aircraft for her young brother when she returned on leave.

But the family later lost touch with her and as the decades passed, only a single letter gave a clue to her whereabouts.

It is only now, more than 60 years later, that Mr Hannant's detective work has led to an emotional reunion.

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“I think she moved into the RAF with a friend,” he said. “What happened I don't know but they decided not to come back.

“The last time we ever heard from Margery was in 1953, after the floods.

“She wrote home to know if we were all right.

“My sister Dorothy wrote back and never had a reply - but Margery had moved again and never got the letter.

“All my life I have always wondered about her.”

Having retired from his job as a gardener at Park House on the royal estate at Sandringham, Mr Hannant, 67, decided to try and satisfy his curiosity once and for all.

His other sister, Dorothy Benbow, 77, who lives at Holt, was equally keen to trace their missing sibling.

Mr Hannant's letters to local papers in Welwyn Garden City and Hatfield in Hertfordshire, the area Margery had previously moved to, brought a reponse from someone who knew of her.

So he and his wife, Doreen, travelled to Hatfield, where research through the library and local council records eventually led them to the home Margery shares with her husband, Jack Cooke.

Now 88, she was recuperating in bed after several months in hospital, but recognised her brother as the child she remembered from her younger days. “At first it was very emotional,” said Mr Hannant, who lives at Dersingham.

“I stood near her bed and said, 'it's been a long time', and she said, 'you're the little blonde-haired boy'.”

As well as finding his sister, Mr Hannant now has a nephew, niece and six great-nieces and nephews he never knew existed.

There's a lot of catching up to do - and plans for further meetings.

“Now I've found her it's not too far to go,” he said. “It was a lovely feeling. It's something I never thought was going to happen but I always hoped it would, because I wanted to find out for sure.”