The Watch

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1st Lieutenant Oliver R Jelks Jnr, Supply Officer, 77th Fighter Squadron, 20th Fighter Group, USAAF

Whilst I have found countless relics over the years, very few compare to this one. Oliver R Jelks Jnr was born in 1920 in Georgia, USA. In 1937 when he graduated from high school, he was given a watch as a present by his parents. He went to college and was half way through his course when he enlisted in the US Army Air Corps in January 1942. He qualified as a pilot but, due to a medical problem with his ear, was grounded shortly after the end of the course. He remained in the USAAF and was eventually posted to England, serving as a supply officer to the 77th fighter squadron, 20th Fighter Group, based at RAF King’s Cliffe. He returned to his home in October 1945. After the war, Oliver finished his college course and became a teacher, and later became an auditor for the state of Texas. He retired in 1985 and died in Austin, Texas in 1996.

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Oliver’s watch

On August 13th 2010 the watch pictured was found at the site of one of the base dumps on an old USAAF fighter base in England, RAF King’s Cliffe. It was found at a depth of around 3 foot and, when cleaned, revealed the name ‘Oliver Jelks’ engraved on the back. The maker, Elgin National Watch Company, was also marked and was an American company.

After two days of searching various online records, and enlisting the help of some very kind people in America, Oliver’s brother, Edward, was traced to Normal, Illinois. Edward was a veteran of the US Navy and served in the Pacific during WW2.

After lying in the ground for 66 years, what was left of the watch was identified by Edward. Oliver must have lost it sometime between April 1944 and October 1945.

The watch was returned to Edward in September 2010 and is now mounted in a frame, taking pride of place on the hallway wall, along with a picture of Oliver in uniform and the story of how his watch had been found.

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