Tuesday, 7 August 2012

United Friends Challenge #246: Conversation between a Father and Daughter

Skyerider's Challenge
America has just celebrated Memorial Day. On this day we honor our service men and women who have fallen in war. They are the ultimate heros, giving everything for our country. I know many other countries have similar days honoring their heros.

Write a story or a poem about a hero in your own life. The person doesn't have to be in the Service, either presently or formerly. Just write about someone who has been heroic to you. It can be a relative, a teacher, a friend... anyone at all. Tell us why you consider them to be your hero.

I had to cut this short. The actual conversations frame a period of time which must be sixty years. I could tell a lot more, but this is just part of the experiences made by my hero.

“Well, I suppose you had no choice really. You got your orders by post and you just went. There was a war on and your country needed you, as they said, with those big posters and the finger pointing.”

“Yes, dad, but I mean couldn’t you have been a conscientious objector.”

“There were some blokes that went for that, but it wasn’t worth it; stuck in prison, being despised as if you were a traitor. In our day no-one was interested in your reasons: all that making peace stuff wasn’t invented. The bloke we were up against wasn’t interested in making peace; he just wanted to take over. Let’s face it, if he had won, we wouldn’t be here now discussing it all, now would we.”

“But you saw a lot of the world.”

“Oh yes, that’s true, but it was all in uniform of course.”

“So tell me again about Italy.”

“Lovely country, but when we arrived we had to run for it. Landing in those amphibious crafts on the beach and dodging bullets, but we made it. I remember once when we had a lot of rain. Part of the ground caved in because the earth got soft, and all of a sudden we were looking at hundreds of bottles of wine. I suppose there was some salami stuff there as well, but that didn’t really interest us service men. I can tell you there wasn’t a sober soldier left at the end of the day. When the Italian farmer, who had hid it, saw what had happened he just burst into tears and started raving around: good thing really, that no-one understood him.”

“But it couldn’t all have been fun.”

“I do remember walking over a field once, that was in Italy. Suddenly the men in front, about four of them, were up in the air; walked over a land mine: terrible really.

Then of course there was the time when we saw Beniamino Gigli sing. He was with his daughter, she also sang. Anyhow were were all in the NAAFI (
Navy, Army and Air Force Institutes – canteen) and he turned up. Of course, he gave us a song or two and that was great. He could really sing well, but the thing was the military police started to lock the doors of the canteen. We didn’t notice it, t?o involved in listening. Then it was time to go, so what happened. Every soldier was asked for his documents. I think they got about fifty deserters on that day.”

“Tell me about when you got the free wine.+

“Oh, that was really funny. We were having a drink in one of those Italian places; we all loved the old vino. By then we had been there some time and I was getting quite a nice colour. The bar owner’s wife served the drinks and said I look like an Italian with that tan on my face. So I told her, as a joke of course, that my mother was Italian. That was a good idea. We all got free drinks afterwards.”

“And then you met Uncle Bill and Jim and started singing.”

“We were already pals and they needed three volunteers to join a Welsh regiment as our troop was being split up. We decided that would be ideal, as we could stay together for as long as this war would last. We used to sing together on the stage for the troops, and once won a first prize in a competition.”

“But it couldn’t have been fun all the time.”

“You’re telling me. I remember the first time we arrived abroad. We were walking along a path at the side of a field and could hear something making a noise like “ping, ping, ping” and seeing earth spitting up in the air. We asked the officer what it was and he said that was the enemy fire from the forest opposite, rebounding on the field. Luckily we were far enough away, but I can tell you within a few seconds you couldn’t see us any more. We grabbed the nearest shelter in a forest and we were behind the trees. A similar thing happened when we were going up a mountain road to a village on the top of an Italian mountain. They gave us donkeys to carry the weapons and stuff. There were a couple of snipers from the enemy stationed on the opposite side and were taking shots at us. We had a good idea then. We all snapped ourselves a donkey and walked the path, hiding behind the donkeys.”

“But what about the donkeys, dad. Didn’t they get hurt.”

“I don’t remember, but believe me it didn’t bother us then if the donkeys had got hurt. We were protecting our own skin.”

And so the converstion with my father continued; tales of tents being stolen by the Arabs in Palestine, while they were sleeping. Waking up in the morning to find the army tents were gone.

When peace was declared, he was on a ship with destination France, and eventually he did see Paris. At the end of the war stationed in Germany going to see an English football match by a visiting team from England for the soldiers, in a half bombed out stadium. Seeing the towns in Germany bombed to an extent that streets no longer existed, just piles of rubble on each side. My dad saw both sides of the war. He was 24 years old when he was called up and served.

So you talk about heros, you could call him and the other soldiers perhaps reluctant heros, but they fought; they were not asked to fight, they were ordered to fight.

My dad, my hero.

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