This is the final instalment of Gone But Not Forgotten. If you would like to read it from the beginning then here is part one.
If you missed part two then you can find this here.
I have written each part so it can be read as a standalone piece. I hope you enjoy it.
Gone But Not Forgotten – Part 3
I couldn’t believe I had found a picture, sometimes the internet can be an amazing place. My maternal Grandad had died when I was just 3 years old, I had met him but I couldn’t remember. I know my Mum didn’t have a picture of her Dad so to find one on the internet was certainly an achievement and she was certainly very pleased and shocked when I told her.
I’m ashamed to say that I knew very little about this man apart from the things I remembered my Mum sharing occasionally. I know he used to use rhyming slang telling my Mum and her siblings to go up the apple and pears when they were off to bed seemed to be very common. He would always have a butcher’s (butcher’s hook = look) at things and his plates (plates of meat = feet) were often aching after a day at work, and he would never have half inched (pinched) anything. He was a proud Londoner and he worked hard for a living, yet sadly died before he had a chance to enjoy his planned early retirement.
As many of the men his age he had served in World War 2 and also lied about his age so he could join up and serve his country. He had wanted to join the Royal Navy but he had only just turned 16 and you had to be 16 and 3/4 to join. So he joined the Merchant Navy, although he was still too young by nearly 6 months. Like many young boys his age he was filled with excitement and nerves as he was sent away from home to serve his country. Those feelings were soon replaced and whilst on convoys under attack from U-Boats I’m sure he would have often thought to himself ‘what the bloody hell am I doing here?’
He had a typical British sense of humour and although he rarely spoke about his time in the war if anyone asked he would always say to them that his greatest achievement was that he swam to Canada. If no one asked him any more then that is all the information they were given, and indeed this was the only piece of information I remembered about him through members of the family. Of course the truth is very different and obviously an extremely terrifying memory to have to live with. He served on ships as part of the Atlantic Convoys, it is believed that approximately 30,000 British men lost their lives in these waters during WW2. My Grandad’s ship was torpedoed and he lost many friends and colleagues. However, they were in international waters and he swam until he was inside Canadian waters. Now it might have only been a few metres but I can’t begin to imagine the fear that he must of experienced to say nothing of the cold water. He was picked up once inside the Canadian water zone and taken to safety.
My Grandad never claimed his medals at the end of the War, he believed that medals should be awarded to those who had actually completed something special and he didn’t feel that he had. He also didn’t want a constant reminder of the friends he had lost during those years. Regardless I’m still proud of him and I wish I could have told him.
Friday 8th May was the 70 year anniversary of VE Day. We complain about our lives today and how challenging they are and for some they really are, However, my Grandad’s generation suffered in ways we can’t even imagine. Their view on life was very different and their community spirit was much stronger. We can learn a lot from their stories as I’m sure future generations will learn a lot from ours. We should always remember them and their stories should be shared… after all they may be gone but should never be forgotten!