Yesterday marked the anniversary of the first landings at Gallipoli, where my grandfather was shot. It is a hauntingly beautiful place, untouched by time. Silence dominates and the well maintained graves of the war dead are in stark contrast to the wildness of the terrain. I'm pressing on with book No. 2, which is slowly evolving.
These extracts are from my father's letters from Burma, 70 years ago:
A couple of nights ago when Japanese acceptance of peace terms became more than a possibility there was shouting and guns flying into the night. We thought at first that we were behind with the news but apparently we were not and I hardly dare think of what will happen if and when it does end. There has been so much speculation, especially the question “shall I be home for Xmas?” Never would I say morale has been so low – and yet so high!
Next morning we heard a salvo of 24 guns firing not far away. There were one or two faint-hearted cheers but mostly there was silence as if the total and complete realisation of the fact had not dawned upon them. To most you see, it meant that they would still be out here despite peace, world peace.
Ted finally arrived back in Southampton on 28 October.
70 years ago my father, then 24, was in India with the RAF. The news of VE Day felt unreal to him.... He was to remain there until nearly the end of 1945, despite promises of an earlier return home.
His personal thoughts, the deprivations and the uncertainties he experienced, coupled with the surprises, the momentary joys and frustrations will be included in 'Two Lives, Two World Wars, as will his amusing pen and ink sketches of life in the RAF.
One hundred years ago tomorrow my grandfather, Reginald William Parrish, landed on `X` Beach on Cape Helles, Gallipoli. A regular soldier and musician with the 2nd (City of London) Regiment, Royal Fusiliers, he fought in the 29th Division, termed `The Incomparables`.
Reginald`s own story of what happened on that fateful day will be included in `Two Lives, Two World Wars`. The book will encompass both his life and war experiences and those of his only son, Ted. Reginald came to live in Watford in 1919 and died there in the early 1950s.
Let us not forget those who lost their lives in Gallipoli 100 years ago.
After much preparatory work and visits to the Western Front, Gallipoli and, most recently, Malta, I'm commencing work on a related book - Two Lives, Two World Wars.
Thank you to Oliver Phillips for a kind mention in his Watford Observer blog:
"...It serves as a further reminder that books on local subjects deserve as much publicity and exposure as we can muster. They are essentially a labour of love, for I know that had the two people closely involved in the production ofWatford in the 20th Century series been paid the normal hourly rate, the books would have had to be sold at least double the cover price.
It is a further reminder of a fact I have begun to appreciate: it is the journey that is the delight, rather than reaching the publishers. There is great fillip to be obtained from the book finally making it to publication, but really, as far as I am concerned, it was the research, the writing and the honing, which I found most rewarding and absorbing.
You can become hooked on that. For instance, after publishing her father Ted Parrish’s Echoes of Old Watford, Bushey and Oxhey a year ago, Lesley Dunlop is now working on another book. Entitled Two Lives, Two World Wars, it will focus on local historian Ted Parrish and his father Reginald.
Lesley will delve into Ted’s life in the area and his experiences in the Royal Air Force in India and Burma during the Second World War. Extracts from the many letters he sent to his future wife, Peggy, will be included in the book, as will cartoons he created based on life within the South East Asia Command (SEAC). He did not forget his beloved Watford and Oxhey while he was at war, as is evidenced in his letters.
As a comparison, Lesley will research the life and experiences of Ted’s father Reginald, a military musician and regular soldier with the Royal Fusiliers. Policing the Empire, his regiment was called back in late 1914 to support the fighting on the Western Front, but instead was sent to Gallipoli. After being wounded, he was despatched to Malta to convalesce and subsequently fought on the Western Front.
He, too, spent his married life in Watford, instilling a love of the area in his only son, Ted, and entertaining local people with his band, The Sylvanians.
“I have visited sites on the Western Front and Gallipoli where my grandfather fought and will visit Malta, where he convalesced, in the spring. I am also exploring the possibility of visiting World War II-related sites in India and Burma, where my father was stationed,” Lesley tells me, adding the fact she intends to weave life in Watford during the First and Second World Wars with the two life stories.
That declaration of intent sums it up, for however well a local book sells, it will not refund the cost of flights to India, Burma and travels round the Western Front and the hours it will take to put it all together. Lesley is writing and researching, much as George Mallory approached his mountaineering: “Because it is there".”
I’m pleased to say that ‘Echoes’ has been positively received and is selling well. This illustrated limited edition publication makes a perfect gift for those interested in learning what it was like to live in the area from the 1920s onwards – or those who remember and would appreciate a nostalgic read. The free-standing chapters explore the different aspects of life, and the people and events that took centre stage, in what was then a quiet corner of south west Hertfordshire. If you are looking for a real local history insight – this is it!
I must declare an interest because I was a friend of Ted Parrish's until the day he passed away. His daughter has done him proud with this book. Ted always wrote from the heart, he had a great interest in local history and this book proves it. Anyone with an interest in Watford and the area around it will enjoy this book enormously and anyone not familiar with the area will wish they lived there! Warmly recommended.
I just want to say how much I enjoyed your father’s articles, they are very interesting. How pleased he would be to know that thanks to your editing and all the nice photographs, it is now a really good book!
A local author and friend has kindly sent me a copy, which I have enjoyed reading. I consider that we are singularly fortunate to have so much relevant material on the history of the Watford District.
Knowing the area for most of my life I believe this work would grace many a local collection.