Friday, 11 November 2011

"Lerrem 'ave it!"

11-11-11: We Will Remember Them

Every year I am sent a small wooden Remembrance cross from the Royal British Legion.  Usually I either pass it to the mother-in-law, whose father was killed in Burma during the Second World War, or I take it to the small war memorial in the village on Remembrance Sunday and hand it to the Elder Slushette to plant alongside the numerous others.
This year I shall plant it alongside my maternal grandfather's grave in nearby Skeffling.  
The inscription on the headstone can be found on the Commonwealth War Graves Commission site and reads: 
In Memory of
Stoker 1st Class ALLAN DOUGLAS
P/KX 98815, Royal Navy
who died age 46
on 08 December 1944
Son of Edward and Harriet Douglas;
husband of Maggie Ann Douglas, of Skeffling.
Remembered with honour
On the Naval History website, in its list of casualties for Friday, 8th December 1944, it states he died of illness at RN Auxiliary Hospital, Sherborne.  
Up until recently, I tended to concentrate mainly on the military members of Dad's family.  These include my great grandad, Frederick, who enlisted in the Army and saw service in the Boer War and then against the Kaiser's Turkish allies in Egypt.  Then there was grandad Charles who was evacuated off the beaches at Dunkirk only to return to France in the wake of the D-Day landings.  Even dad was a volunteer, joining the RAF as opposed to being forced in through National Service, only to then come out early in order to take up farm work back in the East Riding.  It's a decision he's often regretted.  Had the requirement for a chest operation not scuppered my own attempts to follow him I could have become the fourth generation of the Lusmore family to have chosen a military way of life.
Overlooked in all this was Grandad Douglas.  Ironic really, as Mum's dad Allan is the only member of my immediate family to actually have died in service during armed conflict.  My ignorance of the man even stretched to his precise cause of death.  I'd grown up believing it to be down to an accident involving hot coals being dropped on his foot while stoking and Grandad not then getting the injury treated properly.  I'm now led to believe this not to be the case.
All I grew up knowing for a fact was that because of the timing of his passing, Granny Douglas despised Christmas.  And she never indulged my childhood interest in "what Grandad did in the war". 
From the snippets I've heard from others, Allan had a typically Douglas down-to-earth approach to the war (and life in general).  He must have enjoyed shore leave - Mum was one of ten children!  And he liked a tipple in the old Sun Inn; a tale goes that the local bus driver once had to come in to the pub and practically drag him out to ensure he didn't miss his connection to Hull for re-embarkation.  
However, my favourite tale is one recounted to me by a neighbour and was told him by my uncle Jack:  "While on shore leave, your grandad was asked what his ship had been doing.  Your grandad said, 'We've been patrolling off some foreign place or other, mekkin sure the Germans dayen't gerrit.  Having layked at the place, ah'd lerrem 'ave it!'"
But he did his duty.  As did countless others.
And so today, while pausing for thought at the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month (of the eleventh year) to remember those who have made - and continue to make - the ultimate sacrifice in the service of their country, I'll reserve special thought for Grandad Allan who might well have come to some other arrangement with the Germans had he had his way!

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