I can't believe how long it's been since I made an entry on the blog! I think I'm justified in saying that the Watford Observer fortnightly local history and nostalgia articles have been - and are - keeping me busy. I enjoy the freedom to be able write about people, places and events in Watford, Bushey and Oxhey; sometimes long past, sometimes within living memory. The book, to be entitled Two Lives, Two World Wars, has been running in parallel with the articles and its pace has been affected, but I will get there. If something is worth doing, it's worth doing well, as my father used to say.
The lockdowns last year were well spent moving on with the book; a work in progress.
In May 2021 I was asked to write fortnightly nostalgia articles for the 'Watford Observer', which I'm running in tandem with the book. It has been - and is - a pleasure to look back on various aspects of life in Watford, Bushey and Oxhey. There's so much to report!
New Year, new hope. A wish for us all.
In Calcutta 75 years ago today, Ted noted in his diary:
'At 8.15 we hear a salvo of 24 guns - what we have been waiting for - for so long. My thoughts are at home and Peggy (his pen friend, later this wife). Wait till 3.45 before leave chit. Weather pretty bad. Go to pictures to see 'Double Indemnity'. But what a VJ Day!'
The next day the 'big rush' started, securing clearances, signatures and kit after word was received of an imminent return home. But that return was not achieved until November 1945.
These were Ted's words from India on the momentous occasion of VE Day:
'I suppose there are events in everyone’s life that at one time or another prove to be a milestone or turning point for no better reason than intuition; speaking for myself, yet another has been added. The news that came over the air yesterday morning at 7.30, news which we had been anticipating for so long and yet somehow still left us wondering whether it was really true. Not that there was any doubt in our minds (oh dear, no!) but the anti-climax meant so much to us that one thought alone was insufficient to cover the multitude of thoughts concerning our loved ones at home. Indeed, the reaction is altogether a most complicated one and what with the war with Japan being lengthened by one day in celebration (today we are ‘off’) the importance of events is to some extent anyway, brought home.
At 7.30 last night or as Big Ben chimed his third stroke in London, we listened to Churchill’s speech. A small radio in the middle of a large tent was the centre of attraction, surrounded by a mass of cheery but sweating faces. As if the radio apprehended the importance of the situation, it behaved perfectly and all but Churchill’s slightly distorted voice could be heard. True it wasn’t flowery in its eloquence or boastful in its message, but the sober account of the Treaty was spoken, I thought not without a certain feeling. For him I am sure it was the greatest moment of his life – of any man’s life to convey a message that was the breath of life to suffering humanity.'
24th July this year will mark the centenary of my father’s birth. The book is progressing well and has become part of my life... a gratifying one. Much done, much to do. The pace is stepping up.
My father laying Watford & District's Royal Air Forces Association wreath at Watford Heath memorial in the mid-1990s.
Last night's Festival of Remembrance at the Royal Albert Hall included clips from the Battles of Imphal and Kohima 75 years ago. 113 Squadron, of which my father was a member, supported the troops from the air.
The Kohima Epitaph, at the bottom of Garrison Hill, site of one of the bloodiest battles in World War II, was read out during the televised service:
'When You Go Home, Tell Them of Us and Say,
For Your Tomorrow, We Gave Our Today.'
Few words, many lives. Lest we forget.
At the 11th hour on the 11th day of the 11th month World War I ended. Lest we forget.
The 1916 Hudson trench whistle was amongst my grandfather's keepsakes from World War I. Hear it in the video.
Union Jack Handkerchief
His Union Jack handkerchief c1915 has banners on the sides that read:
Our King and Country
Faithful to the Flag
Defence not Defiance
We will remember them.
One hundred years ago today the Hundred Days Offensive began on the Western Front. It led to the end of World War I.
Here's to a happy 2018. With New Year resolutions in mind, I will be well occupied with the new book. Beginning in 1890 in Richmond, Surrey and ending in 1997 in Watford, there are many years and much ground to cover.