Today – the 6th June 2014, is a special date. It is 70 years since the D Day Landings on the beaches of Normandy. Today people around the world will be thinking of the great bravery and sacrifice those men and women gave which helped massively to turn the tide of the war and helped the allied forces to make great advances into Western Europe.
Although both my grandfather’s served in the Army during World War II, neither of them were present at Dunkirk. My father’s father Clifford was in the Royal Electrical Mechanical Engineers (or R.E.M.E for short) and was receiving his training when this great event took place. He didn’t go into North West Europe until October 1944. What his experiences were there, I may never really know. His army record was very sparse, parts of it had gone missing between it having been sent around back and forth when he had applied for a disability pension after the war. So I was left with 9 pages of mostly coded entries that left me feeling somewhat confused! My father had always said that his Dad had been discharged due to a heart condition, but it wasn’t until I saw his record that I saw the reason for his discharge in 1945 – Hysteria – Visceral 20%. That knocked me for six. I had some help to decipher his record and saw there were mentions of hospital stays – three times it is mentioned that he was evacuated to a medical aid post since he joined in 1943. It is not clear what the reasons were for these entries, it could be for heart trouble. But to be discharged with Hysteria, something that left him with a 20% disability – some kind of nervous disorder with no physical cause which could have presented itself in a number of ways – from compulsive behaviour to twitching or repetitive behaviour, seems a bit further away from a heart condition. His conduct was given as very good. He served a total of 2 years and 88 days and his rank upon leaving was Craftsman. He had been a Taxi Driver during the course of the war. He would have been awarded at least two medals – The 1939 – 1945 War Medal and the 1939 – 1945 Star. Neither of which I have ever seen and no idea what became of them. Perhaps he didn’t want them.
As for my maternal grandfather – Philip Marshall, he was in the Royal Army Service Corps and spent his entire service here in the UK. He was a cook and had also spent some time in hospital during his service, no idea what for. He was posted down in Essex which is where he met and married my grandmother, his story is one I will probably leave for another time! He too would have had medals, but again, I have no idea what became of them. He apparently never talked about the war, which seems odd when you think that he saw no overseas service, but perhaps he had other reasons?
Both my husband’s grandfathers served in the RAF, and as yet I’ve not applied for their service records, so would love to know what their contributions were and whether they had any involvement at all in D Day.
My father had two uncles who also served in the Army – both in the same regiment – the Kings Royal Dragoons. Edward Thomas Griffiths and Trevor Griffiths. Seen here together with another army colleague enjoying a joke perhaps?
Trevor unfortunately died in the Middle East in 1942 of Diphtheria. My father always believed he was buried in Malaysia for some strange reason, but when I started to look into our family tree I discovered that he was in fact buried in a cemetery in Baghdad, Iraq. I am unsure if the cemetery still exists after the battering Baghdad has taken over the years of both Iraq wars. But I do have a photograph of his grave from the time and I always think of him on Remembrance Sunday.
So today I’d like to thank all of those who came together on this day 70 years ago and on the days following, for their valiant efforts in ensuring we had the upper hand and eventually went on to win the war. Life could have been so much different.