[Photo of the main street, Inveraray, Scotland (1940s?): combinedops.com]
For about three years now I’ve been following the footsteps my dad made during World War 2, as they relate to the path he travelled as a member of the Royal Canadian Navy Volunteer Reserve (RCNVR, the Wavy Navy) and an early volunteer recruit of Combined Operations, and I can now draw some conclusions concerning several places - in Canada, Scotland, southern England, North Africa, Sicily, Italy - in which he briefly trained or strained at hard and often dangerous work. These few conclusions (more will be made as my search and travel continue) are not in any order of importance and are definitely not final.
His footsteps, on more than a few continents and oceans, are now - over 70 years later - not only faint but fading with each passing year, though I believe there may never be a time when they disappear completely from view.
I feel I must keep looking for more about his trail, details about his travels, his work and efforts.
His footsteps survive in old newspapers, microfiche locked away in under-funded heritage centres, and in black and white photographs and hand-written letters stuffed into shoe boxes that are stored under stairways and in musty closets in faraway places.
His prediction, written on the last page of his Navy memoirs in 1975, is true: “It would cost a small fortune today to retrace the places I had been to and seen under the White Ensign.” But what I have seen and discovered as I’ve journeyed to but a few of ‘the places’ has been well worth the cost.
His footsteps and those of so many other WW2 veterans like him - sailors, soldiers and airmen from countries around the world, gone but not forgotten - are being searched out, sniffed out and in new ways hunted down by many sons, daughters and relatives with precious little to guide them at times.
Some of the best stories about World War 2 have yet to be uncovered or written.
["I took this photo one week ago in Inveraray, Scotland": GH]
I recently returned from a brief visit to towns and major cities in the United Kingdom where I knocked on a few doors, talked with locals, met with experts related to Combined Operations, toured a few museums and sipped tasty ales inside cozy pubs. I learned, among many other things, there are still more doors to knock on, more microfiche to scan, more hills to climb, more books to buy. So, I predict ‘Scotland 2014’ (this most recent journey) will lead to another, then another. How could it yet be otherwise?
I will soon present a few photos from along the way. As well, short and very exciting stories - why, likely almost brilliant - will soon follow.
Link to Scotland 2014