Monday, October 15, 2012


Chapter 1 - Are some stories better left untold?

I consider myself a fortunate man. My father liked to write things down.

In 1975 he wrote his Naval memoirs (35 hand-written pages that covered the years 1941 - 1945), in the mid-1990s he wrote in more detail about a couple of well-remembered Navy adventures for books that are still considered significant today, and while he lived in the village of Norwich, Ontario he penned weekly columns for a few years that touched on various aspects of his life and surroundings.

He also left behind, after his death in 2003, many invaluable photographs and artifacts related to his Navy days, and would have left behind many more had he not lost, by theft, an important collection of souvenirs from a Navy warehouse in Egypt, about the time of D-Day in Sicily, 1943.

About the unfortunate event my father writes the following:

“Late June, 1943 was the last time I helped move that huge mound of baggage. We were in Dejehli, Egypt and we stowed them in a wonderfully clean army building there. I put a navy padlock on the door (I’m kingpin now), the baggage party walked to a waiting truck and none of us ever saw our gear again. Our clothing, photos, souvenirs, everything we owned, went missing.” (pg. 88, “DAD, WELL DONE”)

[“IN EGYPT: Dad’s buddy, Donny Westbrook from Hamilton,
back row, 2nd from right; down to his last pair of shorts?
PHOTO from collection of G.Harrison]

I can endure the loss of most of father’s authentic WW2 relics, including a piece of shrapnel taken from the deck of the oil tanker Ennerdale shortly after it was attacked at sea south of Milford Haven, Wales, June 22, 1942. 

[Dad writes, “We (Ennerdale) arrived at Cove the next day
with everyone happy to be alive.” I say he landed at
Cowes, Isle of Wight, where a Polish destroyer stood guard.
Photo of printed Google map w details by GH

Because after having conversations with other children of WW2 veterans who have in hand or memory very few, if any, wartime stories, photographs or artifacts, I consider myself (and my four siblings) very fortunate indeed.

And because father wrote things down I’ve been able to get to know him better, draw a little closer to him, even though he has been gone for almost ten years. Some stories reveal he and I are more alike than I would have known or even admitted a few years ago. 

That being said, and though some stories make me laugh (“Of course, Dad, what else would a seaman do with several crates of officers’ rum? I bet would have done the same.”) or encourage me to look for more background information about where he was at a particular time (e,g., Cowes, not Cove) or inspire me to applaud his actions, others raise questions and concerns and take me into challenging, sometimes unexpected territory.

* * * * *

More to follow.


Please click here to learn more about the Dale class of tankers (re Ennerdale, see Group III) used in WW2

No comments: