Saturday, 23 November 2013

Home is the sailor

It could just be down to the fact that I am an old curmudgeon.  Or maybe I want to feel superior in some way.  Whatever the reason, I do sometimes want to tell those wives of sailors and soldiers who complain about their husbands being away from home for six months that they should think themselves lucky.  Yes, I know things have changed, even in my lifetime.

I am - or perhaps I should rephrase that in the past tense: I was a war-time baby.  Don't misunderstand me: I'm not claiming that the fact of being born in the very middle of World War II should qualify me for any special privileges.  At least, no special privileges other than those that are due to me anyway as an old geezer.  My brother was a war baby as well, although by the time he came along the war was close to the beginning of the end, with D-Day being just a moon away.  No, I came a couple of years earlier.  The United States had entered the war by the time I was born.  I have sometimes wondered if President Roosevelt had heard of my forthcoming arrival and decided that it was time to come to my aid. But, quite frankly and to be completely honest, I doubt the fact of my mother's "interesting condition" had any bearing on matters whatsoever.

During the War, and for some time both before and after it as well, my father served in the Royal Navy.  Or the Andrew, as it is sometimes known.  Don't ask me why.  The Navy is known as the Andrew, I mean.  I know why my father  - oh, heck.  This has no bearing on what I am trying to tell you.

At the outbreak of the War in 1939, Dad was serving on HMS Sheffield, a light cruiser of the Southampton class.  During my father's time aboard the Shiny Sheff*, she served in home waters, the Arctic and the Atlantic.  It was in 1943 that Dad was drafted to HMS Bonaventure, a miniature submarine depot ship.  The Bonaventure sailed for Australia and the Pacific early in 1945 and, after the end of hostilities, was used to transport nurses from Australia to Hong Kong and, I believe, rescued Australian prisoners of war from Hong Kong to Australia.  It was to be three years before the Bonaventure returned to Chatham.  Granted, there had been a war on, but when I hear those young wives complaining about husbands being away six months . . .

I don't know about my reaction, but my mother told how, after Dad had come home, my younger brother - then aged either 3 or 4 - was told to kiss Daddy goodnight - and he kissed the photograph of Dad as was his usual custom.

*HMS Sheffield was known as the Shiny Sheff as much of what would have been brass on other ships was stainless steel on the Sheffield, the steel being donated by the city after which the ship was named.


Just about all the blogs I read that are written by Americans mentioned yesterday that it was the anniversary of the assassination of President Kennedy - and each and every one of the writers could recall where they were and what they were doing when they heard the news.  Well, I'm sorry - I don't remember.  I'm not at all sure I can remember where I heard about the death of Princess Diana, either.

Anyway, what you might not know is that an acre of land at Runnymede was given in perpetuity to the United States of America in memory of JFK.

1 comment:

joeh said...

Those wives of sailors and soldiers away for years during war indeed had to and have to be a special breed.

I will still cut the wives of husbands away for six months at a time some slack...I'm sure it is difficult and full of worry.

I remember where I was when JFK was murdered, but not as clear and vivid as most others do.