Anzac Day and my Hero

Today is Anzac Day in Australia. Traditionally it is to remember the men who died at Gallipoli, but over the years it has come to be a day of remembrance for all service men and women who have served and are still serving in the armed forces.

So I thought it would be fitting to tell you about my hero – my grandfather.

He never spoke to anybody but me about his war experiences. He told me a lot of things that he never told his wife or his children, and nobody knows why. Maybe he just felt comfortable with me. I hope so.

He was 15 when WW2 started, and immediately went around all the armed forces to try and get them to take him. He was too young, but instead was put on ambulance duty where he lived in England. His job was to drive around after an area had been bombed and to put the wounded and dead into his ambulance and take them to the nearest hospital/morgue.

During all this time he continued annoying the recruiters and finally, when he was 16, the Navy were so sick of him asking that they accepted him.

He became a signalman, and he was assigned to various places in Europe. His superior officer on one of this ships was Noel Coward.

Grandad 1945

Unfortunately, my grandfather had never been on a boat before, and discovered he got terribly seasick, so when he was not on duty, he spent a lot of his time hanging over the side of the boat. In those days, they also gave out daily rations of rum to the sailors. My grandfather didn’t drink rum, so he would sell his to his shipmates, making quite a nice little profit.

When he was not out on the boat, he was stationed in Hague and Belgium with families in those areas.

He was in Belgium and staying with this family when this little girl took her first communion. We have no idea what happened to her.

Julienne, 1st April 1945

He also met the Royal Marines in Belgium:

Royal Marines, Belgium 1945

Hague, Holland, 1945

On D-Day, my grandad was on his boat and they went to Normandy. They were one of the last boats to get there and he and his shipmates had to climb over the docked boats and the dead bodies of his friends and fellow servicemen to get to the shore and fight. He never spoke much about that day.

16BR CCS Tilburg BLA VE Day May 8th 1945

After the war, the navy gave him the option to go back to England or emigrate to Australia. Luckily for me, he chose Australia.

My grandad never watched the Anzac Day parades, because they upset him. I think it reminded him of D-Day and of all the friends he had lost.

He had a perfect Naval record, right up until the day he was discharged. He may not have been given any medals by his country, but he will always be my  hero because he fought for my freedom.

And every day, I will remember him.

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Comments

  • C  On April 27, 2011 at 1:36 pm

    What a wonderful man your grandfather was! I’m sure he was equally as proud to have you as his granddaughter.

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