My Hero

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Troops of the 50th (Northumbrian) Infantry Division arrive on Gold Beach

65 years ago as I type this my Grandfather was pushing inland towards Bayeux from Gold Beach with his artillery unit, attached to 50th (Northumbrian) Infantry Division of Lieutenant-General Miles Dempsey’s 2nd Army. Grandad’s unit went ashore very early – he was among the first troops ashore on D-Day. Later he would fight through Europe, participating in Operation Market Garden, before ending his war on the Baltic (and narrowly avoiding being sent to Palestine after the war). In my experience veterans of the Second World War have dealt with their experiences by either burying them and not talking about what they saw, heard or did, or by being very open about their experiences. My Grandfather is among the latter, and so we know quite a lot about his wartime adventures.

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The badge of the 50th (Northumbrian) Infantry Division

My Grandfather was a successful businessman, and I don’t think he would mind me saying he was not a natural soldier. He doesn’t glory in his exploits, and as the years have gone by it seems to me that the weight of the past, and in particular the memory of his friends and colleagues who didn’t survive to live into their late 80s as he has, has weighed more heavily on him. It is because of citizen soldiers like him, and others from the US, Canada and a multitude of other countries, that people in Europe enjoy the freedoms they do. HIs generation are passing from the stage now. Journalist Tom Brokaw described the soldiers of the US military in the Second World War as The Greatest Generation. I think his description applies equally well to the British of that era. Decent, honourable, slightly austere people for whom the term stiff upper lip meant something. Would today’s generation be capable of doing what they did should the call come? Perhaps. But no more than perhaps.

Update – For those that are interested in such things, I have recalled that my Grandad’s unit was the 102nd Anti Tank Regiment, Royal Artillery (The Northumberland Hussars) Grandad moved with them to 15th (Scottish) Infantry Division, and went the Baltic with them where his war ended.

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5 Responses to My Hero

  1. Tuscan Tony says:

    Thanks for sharing, Fleet.

  2. Lilith says:

    Your Grandfather sounds special, Fleet like so many of his generation. They not only fought in the war, they paid off the debt and rebuilt the economy. They knew how to fix and mend and build and sew things. They knew that being civil kept society’s wheels moving. They respected but never dwelt on each other’s loss and suffering. They abhorred debt. They took responsibility.

  3. globus says:

    pointe du hoc’s quite interesting – if you google earth it, you can still see the shell craters from when the allies pounded the crap out of it. in reality, the germans had moved all the big guns inland before the bombing started, so it was a great waste of ordinance.

    globus is fortunate enough to have toured all of the normandy battlefields and museums etc. for free – a fascinating and great use of a couple of weeks, globus would recommend it.

  4. killemallletgodsortemout says:

    My wife’s Grandfather served in WW1 AND was the British Officer who took Rome in WW2.

    We have the original documents which relate to the capture of Rome, and the document which installed him as the Mayor!! Ended his career as a Colonel.
    Two of Mrs Killemall’s brothers served their country; the Colonel must have been dead chuffed. I only had the privilege of meeting him once, but he was a most charismatic man. RIP.

  5. Tuscan – pleasure

    Lilith – My Grandfather gets almost physically uncomfortable if he knows he owes someone money… not a bad way to be.

    Globus – Interesting – I took a look at Google Earth. I intend to do the battlefield tours once my girls are a little older… Normandy and also the WW1 battlefields of Flanders. My Dad went to Flanders with a retired Gurkha Colonel of his aquaintance. Found it fascinating.

    Killem – Fascinating. The adventures people of that generation had…. My Grandad was interviewed for a job on Field Marshall Montgomery’s staff.. can’t quite remember what – driver I think. He didn’t get it, but is still very proud!

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