Was it fate? Unwitting St Albans friends gobsmacked by four generations of shared history

PUBLISHED: 21:00 24 August 2017 | UPDATED: 11:25 29 August 2017

Jack Blanchflower and his wife, in 1945

Jack Blanchflower and his wife, in 1945


It seems fate has bought together two unsuspecting St Albans best friends in a set of strange historical coincidences which have left them gobsmacked.

Alf Davey, a Burma Railway POW veteran from Bungay has died. Picture: PAUL HEYES/LANCASHIRE TELEGRAPHAlf Davey, a Burma Railway POW veteran from Bungay has died. Picture: PAUL HEYES/LANCASHIRE TELEGRAPH

Diane Pickup and Natalie McEvoy were introduced by the St Albans National Childbirth Trust (NCT) when they were pregnant, five years ago.

Natalie’s daughter and Diane’s son were born two days apart, in August 2012, and the families have remained close ever since.

When Diane’s grandfather, Alf Davey, passed away she shared an obituary of his life on Facebook which Natalie happened to read and clock similarities with her own granddad, Jack Blanchflower.

The friend’s grandfathers were both part of the 4th Battalion of the Royal Norfolk Regiment and also captured by Japan in World War Two. They were both put to work on the infamous Death Railway.

Jack Blanchflower on his 90th birthdayJack Blanchflower on his 90th birthday

While slaving, the two prisoners both suffered bouts of malaria.

When they were liberated by American troops in 1945, the two soldiers went separate ways, meeting up only once more for Alf to show Jack and his daughter, Natalie’s mum, around the Blackburn Telegraph where Alf worked.

In another strange link, Natalie’s maiden name is Davey - the same surname as Alf.

A representative of the 4th Royal Norfolk Regiment, Patrick Budds, attended both of the men’s funerals - Alf and Jack died both aged 97.

Left to right: Natalie and Diane with their children.Left to right: Natalie and Diane with their children.

The two men’s granddaughters - Natalie and Diane - both happened to move down south to St Albans, were paired up in antenatal class, and become unwitting friends.

Natalie said she was drawn to Diane: “The main aspect of it for us is that Diane and I have become extremely close. She is one of the people I have kept most in touch with for five years.

“There was something about her after the first meeting, I said, ‘I’ll keep in touch with her’. And to find out that we have four generations of connections. It’s completely unbelievable, we have been left open mouthed about it. It’s amazing, isn’t it?

“It was one of those spine tingling moments - I can’t believe we have so much shared history. Nothing would surprise me anymore, both of us have been in disbelief, it’s phenomenal.”

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I should probably have taken the hint! Walking out into the garden recently an unprecedented flock of thirty or more crows raucously greeted me from the treetops at the bottom of my garden. Cawing and croaking these big, black birds clung clumsily to the top most branches and twigs, jostling and flapping to stay balanced in a constant flurry of feathers. There is always something ominous about crows – they are after all carrion crows, the vultures of the bird world – always watching for scraps and weakness that might mean their next meal.

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