This blog is part of a site named where you can find the stories of more than one hundred planes that during WWII landed or crashed in Portugal. Here I will announce the updates and also publish stories and information related with WWII in Portugal. All the stories will be in English and there another twin blog in Portuguese... forgive if sometimes the English is not always correct...

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Ivan Sharp, the wolfram man

“We know he had a ticket for another day, but someone gave up to enjoy some more suny days. My grandfather had finished his work in Portugal, and took that place disappearing when the aircraft was shot over the bay of Biscay”, explains Ivan Sharp, that has the same name of his grandfather, one 44 year old mining engineer, involved in the wolfram business and traffic between Portugal and Great Britain.

Ivan Sharp was a mining engineer involved in the Wolfram traffic that was happening in Portugal.
(Picture Ivan Sharp)


Even today Ivan does not know exactly what kind of work his grandfather was doing in Portugal. “My grandmother was a old fashion lady. Sometimes we could seat her and ask her some questions. She usually talked for a while but she just shut up and we could get anything more out of her”, he explains.

But the memory pieces collected from his grandmother, mother and aunt drove Ivan to the conclusion that he was involved in something important during the war. He knows wolfram was one of the most disputed merchandises between the allied and the axis, and that still today there are strange stories of instantaneous richness in some parts of Portugal.

Ivan Sharp has the same name of his grandfather, and was the man behind the homage’s to the victims of Flight 777 in Lisbon and in Bristol.

In 2009 he was in Portugal to take part in the homage to the passengers and crewmembers of flight 777, and he met someone from the Portuguese government who had a family member that “lived the other side of the story”.

“His father in law was also involved in the wolfram business selling it to the British and to the Germans. He told me the story that once his father in law made a mistake putting one more decimal number on the German account. When he saw the mistake he thought he was going to be killed, but the Germans just paid and went away”, Ivan retells leaving the impression that he would like to know more about what happened in Portugal during that period. “There are still a lot of secrets and it is important to dig some more where all this took place”.

Telegram received by Sharp’s family after his disappearance. 
(Picture Ivan Sharp)

About the strange times of “the wolfram war” Ivan also remember s another story that his aunt normally told. “Once she saw a small bag on the kitchen. She felt some hard things inside and thought they were marbles but when she opened it she saw that there were uncut diamonds. We think he used them to pay for the wolfram”.

More joyful are the memories of the times when the mining engineer returned home from Portugal . “He always brought fresh fruit. My mother and my aunt usually gave some of it to the kids from their street. Everybody was amazed with this offers, because fruit was so scarce during the war and most people had no access to this kind of luxury”.

A sporty men the engineer Ivan sharp was part of the team from Sledge&Trust, one company that was later bought by the Rio Tinto Group, one of the biggest mining groups in the world. “we still think what could have happen to our lives if he had survived the war. We would certainly much better”, say the grandson.

He still looks to the event that made his grandfather disappear with mixed feelings. The accident theory does not convince him completely. “I don’t understand why the Germans reacted so fiercely in the next day’s reinforcing the patrols in the area. Why did they wanted to avoid the British rescue team to be successful.Why were they so committed. That is one answer I would like to have”, he reveals.

Ivan Sharp was using diamantes to pay for the wolfram.  
(Picture Ivan Sharp)

There also other mysterious events that would like to have one explanation. “When the war ended the Dorset Regiment announced that they had captured one photo album with pictures of the plane being shot. For some reason those pictures disappeared. If there were only pictures of the aircraft being shot down, why did the album disappeared?”.

“On the other hand there were some important people inside that plane. One very known movie star, people related with military and espionage personnel. If the germans where really interested in someone inside that plane it would have been easy to divert the flight to France. The Gestapo would have a lot of questions for these persons, wouldn’t they?” asks Ivan Sharp, one of the most responsible persons for the homage ceremonies that took place in Lisbon and in Bristol, in 2009 and 2010.

He had the idea if a homage some years ago and after several phone call and the help of the Bristol airport people, and latter the ones form Lisbon, he was able to see those ceremonies take place…

Hear what he has to say about his grandfather…

Carlos Guerreiro

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