Family of US airman 'thrilled' to be reunited with father's gifted tankards

General manager of Ipswich and Suffolk Club Robert Coppin with Hugo Johnsen, presenting the wartime tankards

General manager of Ipswich and Suffolk Club Robert Coppin with Hugo Johnsen, presenting the wartime tankards - Credit: Charlotte Bond/Archant

The family of a US serviceman have said they were surprised and thrilled to learn of the discovery of three tankards inscribed by their late father after World War II. 

Last year, Hugo Johnsen from Sudbury bought three silver-plated tankards at a local auction in nearby Newton as part of a job lot. 

He said that they were "very heavily tarnished" but once cleaned and polished he was able to read an inscription that said: "To my everlasting friends at the Ipswich & Suffolk Club, Fred Foley, Milwaukee, Wisconsin, USA, August 1945." 

Mr Johnsen tried to trace any of Fred Foley's family to see if they would be interested in having the tankards as a gift, and then decided to donate the tankards to the Ipswich and Suffolk Club - who got involved in the search for the US soldier. 

At the beginning of April, Philadelphia university teacher Fred Foley Junior was forwarded an email by his colleague that asked if his father had served in Ipswich.

He said the initial contact was "the most surprising and unexpected email I have ever received" but added he was "thrilled" to learn about the donation his father had made.

He has shared the email with family, with his three children, all of whom are in their 40s, excited to learn more about their grandfather, who died before they were born.

The poignant wartime inscription on one of the tankards presented to the Ipswich and Suffolk Club

The poignant wartime inscription on one of the tankards presented to the Ipswich and Suffolk Club - Credit: Charlotte Bond/Archant

US airman Fred Foley was too young to serve in World War I with his two older brothers, having been born in June 1900, but enlisted in the US Army when it entered World War II in December 1941. 

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He was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant in the army and rose to the rank of major, stationed in Ipswich with the US Army Transportation Corps in support of the airforce. 

Speaking about his father's links with Ipswich, Mr Foley said: "Like many World War II veterans, my father never spoke much about the war, but he frequently spoke very fondly about the many friends he made in Ipswich, the kindness and generosity of the English people, and the good times that he had at the Ipswich and Suffolk Club. 

"While in Ipswich, my father met my mother, Doris Nelson, also an American, who had volunteered with the American Red Cross and was also stationed in Ipswich.  

"They were married in Ipswich in June 1945 and then returned to Milwaukee, Wisconsin, where I was born in December 1946.  

"In 1951, my father was transferred to Philadelphia, where I grew up, went to school, and still live."

Mr Foley added: "I am looking forward to receiving one of the tankards which the folks at the club have offered to send to me and plan to display it prominently on one of the bookcases in the living room in my house."