Monday, 17 December 2012


5-year-old Emily was, I am informed, most concerned on Saturday when Grandma (the Old Bat) announced that it was time for dinner.  This was early (for us) at about 5.30 and I was still helping to entertain the old folks in yesterday's blog.  That - my absence at dinner time - was what concerned my young princess.  What would Grandad do for dinner?  She was assured by Grandma that Grandad's dinner would be kept warm in the oven for him.  Unfortunately, Emily had gone home to get ready for  bed before I had a chance to see her.

Emily does get to meet all four of her grandparents, as did I when I was a child.  The Old Bat was less lucky as all her grandparents died before she was born.

HMS Impregnable
He also served on HMS Hearty, a torpedo boat destroyer
I really don't have many memories of my paternal grandfather.  He was born in the 1880s in a small village in Suffolk.  His family were farm labourers and fishermen (although the sea was eight miles away) and had mainly lived in and around that part of Suffolk for at least a hundred years.  One branch had left during a time of great hardship and were to be found in the coal mines around Durham.  But those apart, my grandfather was the first to leave the area.  At the age of 15 he joined the Navy.  I have his Naval papers which detail all the ships he served on, the courses he attended and his promotions through the ranks from boy seaman to chief petty officer.  His first posting was to a training ship, HMS Impregnable, a retired sailing ship, and he later served on torpedo boat destroyers (as destroyers were then known).  He must have had more guts than I do as he served on submarines during the First World War.  It must have been a terribly cramped and claustrophobic existence once the boat was beneath the surface.

Although Grandad didn't die until I was approaching 10 years old, my memories of him are very vague.  Seeing photographs remind me that he was quite short and well-built - stocky verging on stout.  My brother swears that he never left the house without wearing a brown trilby.I do have other vague memories, although I still can't picture Grandad in them.  He once took me on a trip from Sun Pier, Chatham, down the River Medway and across the Thames estuary to Southend and back.  We travelled on an old paddle steamer, the Medway Queen, which had seen service at Dunkirk.  Grandad also took my brother and I to the cattle market in Chatham on a number of occasions.  Although Grandad himself doesn't feature in those memories, I could still find my way to the pig stalls - if the market was still there!  How those pigs squealed when their ears were clipped.

My brother and I always bought Grandad the same present for Christmas: a bag of walnuts.

I do wish I had known him better.


It's not only the humans who enjoy the view from the southern rampart of the Roman Camp.


Suldog said...

I, too, was fortunate enough to know all of my grandparents. I was nine when the first one passed on. I had no idea, until much later in life, that not everyone was as lucky as I.

Buck Pennington said...

He must have had more guts than I do as he served on submarines during the First World War.

More guts than I have, as well. I've been inside a WWII vintage submarine and "cramped" is understated. I imagine the first generation of submarines were significantly worse.

FWIW, my Navy son began his career in submarines, and served almost four years on ballistic missile subs (Boomers). The crews on those boats go out for 90 days at a time, and stay submerged for the entire patrol. I don't know how those guys do that...

Uncle Skip, said...

I will have to do a Grandad post... if I remember.