Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Running water, catch of the day and family history.

1. Paddling across a stream and feeling the coolness through my boots.

2. Gutting a fish, because it's never as difficult or as yucky as I think it's going to be.

3. I like this story from my grandfather's memoirs:

...a worried group of men looking in the direction of my carrier where I could just see the figure of Bernard Todd, my driver. Sgt. Lawes told me that Todd had received a cable telling him that a missile, it would have been one of the massive V 2 rockets which were doing terrible destruction round London at that time, had destroyed his family home and killed his wife and other members of the family. He was understandably distraught and Sgt. Lawes feared he might do something stupid. He had a loaded rifle with him.

I walked over to talk with Bernard racking my brains for a way of helping him get on top of his grief. He said he didn't care if he lived or died, he wanted to kill Germans, he would transfer to a rifle company.

I replied that this could be arranged but that I would miss him if he went and that meanwhile he ought to think about his remaining family and he could apply for compassionate leave to go back home and see them.

He became a little more coherent and then I had my inspiration. "Get in the carrier" I said. "Let's go for a spin." Driving a carrier at any speed over 25 mph on a hard road required a lot of concentration and it has all the exhilaration of driving an open car at high speed. Too much adjustment of the steering applies the break to one track and in a split second you are spinning off the road. We moved slowly back on to the main road which was free of traffic. "Get a move on!" I said.

He did. We must have got up to 40 mph before he eased off and look up at me. I wouldn't say he was smiling but he seemed much calmer. We went back to the convoy and in a day or so he was back to the UK.

I probably would not have heard any more but just after Pat and I were married in 1948 we came face to face with him shopping in London. He had a girl with him whom he introduced as his new wife. He showed me the gold ring on her
finger. He announced proudly:

"I had that made from the gold sovereign you gave me for my 21st. birthday just before we got to Termoli."