Relative uncovers tale of lost love between late uncle and fiancee (From The Wiltshire Gazette and Herald)
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Relative uncovers tale of lost love between late uncle and fiancee
A tragic story of lost love captivated Gazette readers earlier this year when American Stephen Fincher asked for information about his late uncle’s Chippenham fiancee.
Mr Fincher, who lives in the state of Georgia, was told by his mother the story of his soldier uncle James Timothy Burgess, who died aged 32 on Christmas Eve 1944 during the Battle of the Bulge, leaving behind his girlfriend Flo.
His uncle, a private first class with the 24th Armoured Engineer Battalion Fourth Armoured Division, met Flo while he was stationed in the Greenways area of Chippenham near the old hospital.
Mr Fincher appealed for help to trace Flo and, following an article in the Gazette, Flo’s nephew Douglas Male, 71, and former neighbour Mary Love, 81, came forward.
They revealed Mr Burgess, who hailed from Moultrie in Georgia, met Florence Mary Mountjoy in the town and the two fell deeply in love, even though she was 14 years his senior.
Miss Mountjoy never married and instead dedicated her life to her family.
Now Mr Fincher, a contractor who works in Afghanistan, has travelled thousands of miles to visit Miss Mountjoy’s grave in Derry Hill and meet Mr Male and Mrs Love.
At the emotional meeting, Mr Fincher was given a Bible that belonged to his uncle, which had been given to Miss Mountjoy before his death.
“It’s amazing to be able to come all this way and see her grave,” said Mr Fincher.
“It’s nice here. It’s very peaceful, and it’s interesting to look at all these graves of people who have passed away and make up the history of this place. I made the trip to meet everyone who has helped and to see where Flo is buried, and it’s worth it.”
Mr Male also gave Mr Fincher a folder of memories to take home with him, including a poignant poem written by Mr Burgess before his death.
In the poem, which describes a dream, are the lines: “Everything was just like I want it to be / When all wars are over and the world is free.”
Mr Male said: “I think Stephen is going to read that by himself later.
“It is a very touching poem. I do wonder what might have happened if he had lived through the war. If things had gone well, Stephen and I would be related.”
Mr Fincher said he had carefully followed the clues to find out about Miss Mountjoy.
“My mother told me the story and she told me my uncle was engaged, but she didn’t know the lady’s name,” he said.
“I got on the internet and found where he had been stationed. Then I did some research and contacted the newspaper with a photo of him, and from there it all just fell into place.”
Pte Burgess, who was a farmer back in the USA and one of ten siblings, got engaged to Miss Mountjoy the year before he went into battle.
Miss Mountjoy, one of eight children, worked as a nurse at the Bowood Estate, looking after the incumbent Marquis of Lansdowne’s children.
She served in the Red Cross, was a member of the church choir and spent much of her life caring for her disabled siblings, before her death, aged 78, in 1977.
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