Family united in Croydon after uncovering army captain's double life
A family is to be united for the first time after uncovering a wartime secret hidden for 60 years.
The discovery of a British army captain's double life will mean the family, which spans 3,500 miles and three countries, are to come together to meet in Croydon.
Bernard Ambrose Dearsley is thought to have drowned in 1943 after the ship he was on was torpedoed in the Mediterranean Sea.
He left behind a wife of 17 years, Josephine, and three sons, Ralph, Cyril and Leon, in Bexley.
Little did they know that Bernard had another wife, Margaret, a Norwegian who he had secretly married while stationed in Dumfries in 1942.
And just eight days before Bernard's presumed death, Margaret had given birth to their son, Robert, with whom she returned to Norway after the end of the second world war.
It meant that two branches of Bernard's family tree developed unaware of each other and thousands of miles apart.
But that all changed when Robert's daughter-in-law discovered a novel featuring a character called Bernard Dearsley.
She investigated, and was shocked to find that the book, The Beast of Wildeor, had been written by Bryan Dearsley - Leon's son and Bernand's grandfather.
Robert then discovered he had another cousin, Sarah Wilkinson - Ralph's daughter - who lives in Annesley Drive, Shirley.
Robert, Bryan and Sarah are now all planning to meet in Croydon in April to further uncover the mystery of their shared grandfather.
Bryan, 50, who now lives in Canada, said he was overcome with emotion when his long-lost uncle contacted him.
He said: "I immediately responded, and shared what little I knew about my grandfather.
"We compared the few documents we had, including Bernard’s birth certificate and notification of his death, and there was no doubt it was the same man."
And Sarah, 56, said there was no bad blood between the two family branches, despite her grandfather's secret.
The languages instructor said: "It is all history now. I think my grandfather did the right thing in marrying Margaret because she had fallen pregnant.
"Things were different back then. I think people would have expected it."
She added: "My grandmother had a very interesting life so nothing surprises me, but no doubt it's a fascinating discovery.
"It has certainly made me more interested in my family tree."