Thursday 23 July 2009

Remember them

The news about our troops in Afghanistan recently brought back memories of relatives who had seen war and came back changed.Changed utterly.(Thanks WBY.)

My father, grandfather and great grandfather were all sailors, my father joining during the war as a boy seaman.

He trained at HMS Ganges and was a button boy.His head for heights wasn't hereditary, believe me!

He later served in HMS Victorious in the Far East Squadron, I remember seeing a photograph of him and a shipmate standing in the desolate ruin that was Hiroshima.
He died of stomach cancer in 1964, still in his thirties.

My stepfather was a short stocky man with bandy legs, like so many others who had grown up in Clydeside during the thirties.He joined the Royal Scots Fusiliers as soon as he could which may have saved his life, for he lost thirteen members of his family in the Clydebank blitz in 1941.

His battalion was in the 52nd Lowland Division, which with a degree of irony was designated a Mountain Division. He learned to ski and drive a Bren gun carrier.I still have his operating manual.

The division trained long and hard for an invasion of Norway, so there was no suprise when it was sent to Holland in 1944.

Now, some fifteen years after he had died, I got talking to an old gent in Stockbridge library.

He was wearing a deerstalker, so we started a wee chat about shooting which turned into a conversation about his military service. He had been in the RSF in Holland, and he told me about one time that his platoon had came under fire from a sniper.

"Awbody jumped intae the ditch except fur the Bren gunner, wha returned fire."

He was looking into the far distance.

"The sniper hit the magazine o' the Bren and that's whit saved his life, he just took a dunt oan the heid wi' the magazine."

My stepfather, a Bren gunner, had had a silver plate in the right hand side of his head...


  1. Aye - it's a wee world right enough.

    I had an uncle who was a Bren gunner - at 18 he went through D-Day and then took one in the hip in Eindhoven in 1944. That ended his war.

  2. Hmm.

    Funny how the generations thing works out.

    Paternal grandad was Scots Guards WWI; invalided home after being gassed (not too badly, as these things go, but died at around 70.)

    Other grandad was at the fortunate age which made him too young for WWI, too old (plus being in a reserved occupation) for WWII.

    However, one great-uncle was Royal Artillery, 8th Army, in North Africa from before Alamein and Italy until the end.

    As you know, I am a pedant: Victorious and your dad were in the 1st Aircraft Carrier Squadron of the British Pacific Fleet, the whole of which served with the USN as Task Force 57 (initially) and Task Force 37 (later).

    If there's anything you want to know about what they did/didn't do and how they did it, I'm your man. This is an area I have been researching for years.

    Stockbridge library, eh?

    I thought your picture looked familiar.

  3. Where the fucks my cyanide pill? Cover is broken...last transmission...

    Lol sm753.Do you have a Labrador?

  4. Re my last post sm, I know a Naval historian who lives in Stocky...

  5. No Lab, CTL.

    We haven't spoken, but "I have you in my eye" (bwa ha ha ha).

    If you are going to parade around your youth and masculinity as such a big strong hirsute lad - at your age - then you've only got yourself to blame. (Yes, that's jealousy.)

    We've just moved the MiL up here and Stocky will be her local library, so please be nice to her.

    Correction: I think paternal grandad was actually Royal Scots rather than Scots Guards. We're not posh enough for the Guards; he was a fisherman and then worked for the gas board.

  6. Youth f no, I'll have to ask the wife about the masculinity though...
    Will she be in Baker place?