I grew up attending Remembrance Sunday services as I moved through Rainbows, Brownies and the Girl Guides. Remembrance Sunday and Armistice Day are two different days. Armistice Day is always on the 11th November, and it signifies the day that the allies and Germany signed the Armistice that ended the war in 1918. On the 11th minute of the 11th hour of the 11th month. This is the reason behind the time of the two minute silence we hold. Remembrance Sunday is always on the 2nd Sunday of November, and is when the Church will hold a service to remember the dead.
Poppies are the flower that we use to symbolise remembrance. Due to their being one of the first plants to grow on the battlefields of war. This link between the flower and those we have lost was immortalised by the poem ‘In Flanders Fields,’ by John McCrae in 1915. In the UK, poppies are sold by The Royal British Legion charity. The money raised from the publics donations go towards supporting the armed forces. This year I have crocheted a poppy but I will also be making a donation too.
Typically it is a day for remembering those who died while fighting serving our country, ‘lest we forget’. However for somebody with a military heritage, it is hard not to think of the men who served our country, one man in particular is a man I adored. The man who sent me letters on a regular basis, sent me pocket money and paintings…………….my Grandad.
As a child I knew my Grandad used to be in the army. I know this from the tales he used to tell me of being in the desert and checking your boots for scorpions. He used to draw me this cartoon all of the time in the margin of his letters and I never knew what it meant. Other than he was called Chad. People generally look blankly at me when I try to explain what he looks like. I recently discovered though that the image I associate with my Grandad, see my doodle below is in fact ‘Mr Chad’.
‘Mr Chad’ was a character commonly used to humorously draw attention to shortages in World War Two (WWII). I was so pleased to discover that this cartoon meant something. Even better that it was connected to him. As an adult I know it wasn’t all adventures in far off lands. His hand suffered from an old injury, an injury I have now learnt came from coming under fire whilst driving a Churchill Tank. This is testament to that.
My Grandad served in the corps of the Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers. He served in France, Germany and the Middle East. His tales were never of the bad things he saw but of giving their chocolate and cigarettes to starving civilians. So that they could sell them for food. This image of a very pretty lady seems to be have been taken in Germany. I don’t know who she is but she certainly isn’t my Nan…… The caption underneath simply states ‘Eulzen, Germany 1945’. I do know that one of my Great Uncles came home with a German wife after the war, which points at romance for some.
Part of his time spent serving was driving a Churchill Tank after the fighting had finished. To go and retrieve the tanks too damaged to be driven back to camp. These same men seem to be in every photo with him, so I imagine that they must have known each other well. There also seems to always be a cigarette in his mouth or hand. Which is strange as I don’t remember my Grandad smoking as a child.
After WWII ended in 1945, he was stationed in the Middle East. To assist with the settling in of the mass migration of refugees fleeing to a safer home. I think he spent a lot of time here, as he and his fellow soldiers found the time to adopt a camp dog that came everywhere with them.
Grandad was not the only man in my family who served. My Great-Grandad served in WWI and until the day he died he still had shrapnel inside his leg. Apparently my Nan adored him and used to say he was a ‘real gentleman’. My grandad’s brother also served and whilst my Grandad served in the army, he served in the Navy.
I haven’t heard much about his exploits. But it appears from his photos that he too saw much of the world during his service in WWII.
My Nan came from a long line of colonels and sergeants in her family, and her brother too served in WWII. He certainly seemed to have his share of adventure if not bad luck though. Uncle Dom who looks very cheeky and young with his cat and cigarette in his photo, served in the Battle of Dunkirk. He was unfortunately shot and sent home. Bored and tired of waiting to be allowed back into his regiment, he re-enlisted. The military police were none too happy when they arrived to arrest him for desertion to find that actually he was elsewhere fighting in the war.
His bad luck didn’t end there. He fell off a ship off of the coast of Malta, and remained a prisoner of war until WWII ended.
‘Jack’ as his friends called him, Grandad to myself, brother and cousin was a great man. He was stubborn, contankerous and proud. He was also artistic and a loving and doting Grandad. A man who gave no hint to his grandchildren of the horrors he must have seen and endured during his service.
It is a shame that I didn’t discover these photos and stories until recently. More sad that I lost this great man at the age of eight. We know that he did have medals awarded to him for his service. These are stuffed in a tin somewhere amongst the rest of his possessions. Hidden away much as they were when he was alive. I wish I could speak to him and show him that he and the rest of the men he served alongside, have not and will never be forgotten for their service to this country.
This year the same as every year during Armistice Day and Remembrance Sunday, my thoughts will be with those who fell and fought for this country.The difference is that this year, my thoughts will also be with the great men of my family who served this country in it’s time of need.
‘Lest We Forget’
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