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Morecambe solicitor reunited with twin brother 80 years after Second World War tragedy

Geoffrey Knowles

A Morecambe solicitor has been reunited with his twin brother almost 80 years after they were tragically separated during World War 2.

The ashes of legendary Morecambe lawyer Geoffrey Knowles have been placed on the grave of his brother Donald in South East Asia.

Philip George, Mr Knowles' friend and former partner at Whiteside and Knowles solicitors in Morecambe, and Geoffrey's daughter Janet made the emotional journey to Thailand with his ashes as a final tribute to him.

Mr Knowles and Donald were prisoners-of-war working on the death railway in Siam after being captured during the Second World War.

But while Geoffrey made it out alive, Donald sadly perished in 1944 aged 26, and he is buried in a war cemetery in Kanchanaburi.

Philip spoke about his friend and his incredible pilgrimage to Thailand, during a visit to the Beyond Radio studios.

LISTEN to our interview with Phil George:

"In 1942, the twins Geoffrey and his brother Donald were shipped off to defend Singapore following the Japanese invasion of Malaya," said Phil.

"Their ship the Empress was bombed and sunk. They were soon captured and frogmarched to Siam to construct the notorious death railway."

The brothers suffered a terrible time as prisoners before they were separated, then Donald died after an American air attack on the railway.

Geoffrey was devastated by the loss of his brother and the memories of their ordeal.

After returning home, he continued his career at Whiteside and Knowles law firm in Morecambe, where he and Donald had both worked before being conscripted.

"Despite Geoffrey's trauma, he carried on and he took me under his wing and slowly he offloaded some of his trauma to me," said Phil.

"Geoffrey died in 2008. Some of his ashes were with his daughter Janet, in Perth in Australia.

"So when she found out in June of this year that I was in Kuala Lumpur, we made contact.

"We travelled to Kanchanaburi, which is where the war cemetery is. We located Donald's grave and we spread Geoffrey's ashes around Donald's grave.

"That was quite a moment, a very emotional moment. It was a very fulfilling trip. I was so pleased I did it."

Phil and Janet are pictured below in the war cemetery.

The story will be told in Philip's upcoming book of his life story, entitled 'Racket Boy', because of his love of badminton and squash - having been an accomplished player at both racket sports.

The autobiography is an inspiring tale of his upbringing in pre-and-post independence Malaysia, coming over to live in the UK as an 18-year-old, before working his way up to becoming a solicitor of the Supreme Court of England and Wales.

Philip said he owes much of his success to his mentor Mr Knowles, who he met in 1970 shortly after his arrival in the Lancaster and Morecambe area.

As well as being a partner at Whiteside and Knowles solicitors on Skipton Street in Morecambe, Geoffrey was a Freemason, Rotarian and member, trustee, president or honorary solicitor of numerous local clubs and associations, who supported many charities and local families during his life and career.

Geoffrey (centre) and Philip (right) are pictured here together.

A larger-than-life character, and a kind and witty man, Geoffrey shared a love of sport with Phil, and they attended many sporting fixtures together - including Test cricket matches.

Philip recalls a hilarious moment when Mr Knowles fell asleep at Old Trafford cricket ground and missed Shane Warne's 'Ball of the Century' in The Ashes in 1993, which you can hear about in our audio!

Philip now lives in Tuscany, Italy, following his retirement in 2013.

He visited the Beyond Radio studio for the interview on a return trip to the UK. His book will be released in 2023.

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