It’s War!

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Jan 3rd, 2013
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Dad circa 1938

Dad circa 1938

I’ve been fascinated by all matters military since I was a fairly small child. My father was a Normandy Veteran, a sergeant in the Royal Corps of Signals. Something he generally kept to himself.

The war, World War II, was something that he found difficult to talk about. My father was Jewish, his father was born in Hamburg, Germany, and his mother in Poland. What little I have been able to piece together of my family’s past is limited to the family tree, written on cash analysis paper, which goes back to 1513, and bits and pieces that have been dropped from time to time.

My main problem with going back through the records for evidence of my family is that a lot of stuff begins and ends with the Second World War, and there’s no one left alive to talk about it. There’s a fracture there which will never be papered over.

I suppose that’s where my fascination begins. A point in time where my family history goes murky and gets lost. So instead of concentrating my efforts chasing leads that have no ends, I lose myself in the leads that I have ends for.

World War II.

Here in the UK we have something called the Public Records Office based at Kew (West London). With a little jiggery pokery I managed to get a reading ticket. I spent a lot of time reading through records trying to piece together the bits of my father’s service. I knew he was Royal Corps of Signals, knew that he was a Sergeant and that he was one of the advance guard into Brussels in 1944. Other than that, I knew nothing.

It turned out that Dad landed on Sword Beach, D-Day +8 (that’s the 14th June 1944). He was part of Field Marshal Montgomery’s force. My father, and many of the men who followed Montgomery, admired the man enormously. The first Biography I ever read was Field Marshal Montgomery.

The thing that Dad did share with me about the war was a passion for War Movies. I have lost track of the number of times that I’ve seen The Battle Of The River Plate. So when Christmas comes around, it’s only fitting that I settle in for a small marathon of the films that bring Dad back. Sink The Bismark, The Guns of Navarone, The Battle Of The River Plate, Bridge On the River Kwai, Battle of Britain, Tora Tora Tora, I grew up with those films. Shared them with my Dad.

I was born twenty years after my father stepped out of a landing craft onto a sandy beach in Normandy. I’ve been to those beaches many, many times, but somehow it’s the films that give me a closer feeling. Perhaps because the picture in my head of Dad and Me, Saturday afternoons on the sofa are real, where the images of Dad in Normandy in 1944 are only in my head.

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