Kersh, Mervyn

Mervyn Kersh was born December 20, 1924 in South London. He grew up with two older siblings in a middle class Jewish family in the neighbourhood of Brixton; he experienced significant anti-Semitism at school, until his parents moved him to a Jewish school. They also enrolled him in the Jewish Lads’ Brigade, and Mervyn too was part of a local boys club. There and at home he paid attention to the clashing political views and current issues of the day, such as the Spanish Civil War; to most everyone it was obvious that war was on the way, Mervyn recalls. Once that day came Mervyn was part of the children’s evacuation, and he stayed with his uncle in Devon in the early part of the war, along with three boys who had come over on the kindertransport. He did end back in London though, and the family endured the Blitz and watched the Battle of Britain play out in the skies above them. Merv yn’s older brother opted to join the RAF, while Mervyn was called up to the army in 1943. He reported for duty in Lanark, Scotland, and his military career was underway. He would ultimately be assigned to the Ordnance Corps, the body charged with supplying weapons, ammunition and equipment to the British Army; they then began training for the inevitable second front. Soon enough they were in the Portsmouth area, preparing to cross the Channel. Mervyn volunteered to be part of a recce party, so he went ashore in advance of his unit, landing on D+4 and tasked with finding a good spot for a vehicle storage depot. Mervyn found a suitable location, and vehicles began to show up, which he had to track and repair and move out as needed. While in Normandy, Mervyn also had the occasion to attend a Rosh Hashanah service that was held for Allied Jewish servicemen in Bayeux. Mervyn followed the advancing Allied armies through the rest of the war, from France to Germany. In Germany he had the occasion to see the infamous Bergen Belsen concentration camp, and to talk to some of the survivors. Not long after that he was sent back to the UK to begin training for the invasion of Japan, but the atomic bombs obviated that possibility. Mervyn was instead sent to Egypt, where he completed his service. While there he was able to meet his brother, and the two of them were able to visit Israel. Back in England, he was demobilized; now a civilian, Mervyn sought out other opportunities and along the way married and started his own family. Mervyn attends annual Normandy commemorations to this day, where he honours the sacrifice of his fellow soldiers and urges today’s leaders to continue the fight for democracy. Crestwood students were able to zoom with Mervyn Kersh on two occasions in June and July 2023.