I wouldn’t be at all surprised if somewhere in Niagara Falls or surrounding area someone related to Norm Mitchison has a replica strip Lewis .303 hanging above a mantel or displayed prominently over an inside doorway. I would if my dad was credited with two planes shot down during WW2 and that was the gun he used. (Okay, maybe not over the fireplace, but someplace where I could point it out to others and tell them the story attached to it.)
I have a Cunard Line promotional print (in a gorgeous oak frame) over my fireplace mantel. It was a gift from my father, a veteran of WW2, having served 4 years with the RCNVR in such places as Scotland, England, North Africa, Sicily, Italy and Comox, B.C.
When he saw it hanging inside a train station in his hometown (Norwich, Ontario. Can anyone recall a train station in the west-end of town?) I’m sure he felt he had to have it. No ifs, ands or buts. So he asked for it - and got it. Now I have it, and I feel I know why he wanted it, even badly. And I’m certain there were at least two reasons, likely more.
For example, about his ship being attacked on his way to Southampton and the Isle of Wight (home to The Needles, sharp points of chalk cliffs) he writes, “The attack was short and sweet but it seemed an eternity... I ventured out on deck immediately and picked up bomb shrapnel as big as your fist... I kept the shrapnel as a souvenir along with many other items I had but, alas, they were all lost in Egypt...We arrived at Cowe [sic] the next day with everyone happy to be alive and still shaking.”
The print would remind him of the time he reached safety after experiencing his first air attack. He would likely have saluted each of The Needles in turn as they came into view, at the same time being ever so happy to see dry land, and friendly land, well-protected land (home to a Polish destroyer at Cowes in 1942).
As well, the print of The Needles, situated in the English Channel, would serve as a reminder of so many other events and adventures he’d experienced (directly and indirectly) on or near the shores of the channel during his time overseas.
The loss of friends at Dieppe, 1942
Training at HMS Westcliff, at Southend-On-Sea, 1942
Voyage through the Channel to North Africa, 1942
Friendship with Gracie Purvis of Croydon, Southend-On Sea, 1942
Top-Hat Pub and many more, Southend-On Sea and London, 1942 and 1943
Voyage through the Channel to South Africa, 1943
Voyage from Sicily and Italy, and again through the Channel 1943
I think finding and bringing home the Cunard print was a good deed on my father’s part. The print not only looks ‘smashing’ atop my mantel, and appears to be - to me at least - a better reminder of WW2 than a piece of shrapnel, it infuses more life into many of father’s 70-year-old adventures and subsequent stories as well.
[Photos by GH]
Do you have a reminder of WW2 on a wall in your house?