Siblings reunited 80 years after WW2 bomb separated them

‘Don’t leave it so long next time’: Sister, 79, is reunited with her long-lost brother, 84, EIGHTY years after being separated from family and adopted in chaotic aftermath of WWII bomb

  • Jan Coggins, 79, met long-lost brother David Westcott, 84, in emotional reunion
  • Mr Westcott remembers pulling a young girl from rubble in Exeter during WW2
  • He suspected it was his sister – who was later adopted after being separated  
  • Now Mrs Coggins’ daughter discovered new relatives through a DNA test 
  • Jan Coggins and David Westcott

    Jan Coggins and David Westcott

    A brother and sister have been reunited 80 years after they were separated during the Second World War.

    Jan Coggins, 79, has finally found the family she had searched for when she met long-lost brother David Westcott, 84, in an emotional reunion in Darlington in November.

    It is not entirely clear how Jan became separated from her family and ended up being adopted, but Mr Westcott has a faint memory of pulling a little girl from the rubble when Exeter was bombed during the war. 

    Mrs Coggins always knew she had estranged family members, but Mr Westcott did not – though he always suspected the girl in his memory was his sister. His instinct has now been proven correct as the pair have now one reunited thanks to a DNA test. 

    Mrs Coggins’ youngest daughter Beth Coggins-Mordey, 40, had uncovered a match to a second cousin on her mother’s side, but at first could not decide whether to tell her mother, who has Alzheimer’s and dementia, about the astonishing find. 

    But Beth, who lives in Sunderland, reached out to her newly discovered family, and now the elderly siblings regularly speak on the phone and on video call – and are looking forward to meeting again in March. 

    Beth told Teesside Live: ‘My wife Sandra and I had got in touch with David’s wife Phyllis and it took a while for her to see the message on Facebook but she got back in touch.

    ‘We went down to Exeter and it was like one of those weird things where we just felt like we had known them forever. David was just so much like my mum.

    Paul and Jane Coggins with David and Phyllis Westcott. It is not entirely clear how Jan became separated from her family and ended up being adopted, but Mr Westcott has a faint memory of pulling a little girl from the rubble when Exeter was bombed during the war

    Paul and Jane Coggins with David and Phyllis Westcott. It is not entirely clear how Jan became separated from her family and ended up being adopted, but Mr Westcott has a faint memory of pulling a little girl from the rubble when Exeter was bombed during the war

    ‘When I was down there, David had said to me ”will I ask my dad if he can meet his sister”.

    ‘Dad knew I was going down but no one had mentioned it to my mum. He’d told me he could never deny her the right to meet her family that she has searched her whole life.’ 

    Beth said the reunion in Darlington ‘couldn’t have gone any better’ and her mother has a ‘new lease on life, the weight has been completely lifted from her shoulders’.

    She added: ‘When she saw him it was just lovely, she was so happy to meet him. At the end it was so funny because she said to him ”don’t leave it as long next time”.’ 

    Details of their childhoods are not well documented and Jan was never sure how old she was when she was adopted.

    Beth added the family are not sure how old her mother was when the separation took place, and had always assumed her adoption was from birth, ‘but now we don’t know’ – and there are no pictures of the siblings’ youth to help them piece it together.    

    Mrs Coggins had moved to Darlington after she met husband Paul.