Remembrance Day thoughts

I have just, belatedly, listened to the Remembrance Sunday podcasts from Dan Snow’s History Hit and We Have Ways Of Making You Talk.
Both affected me in different ways. Listening to a man coming face to face with a reconstructed aircraft of the type and squadron in which his father died was moving because of family connections to the aircraft. The conversation about the Commonwealth War Graves Commission brought back other memories.

Related to the Hampden bomber in Dan Snow’s podcast: My father serviced these aircraft at RAF Patricia Bay (now Victoria Airport) on Vancouver Island, Canada. As a young man I assumed that my dad had a “cushy billet” far away from the war. Only after retirement when visiting the museum at the site did I realise that in fact this was the front line against the Japanese. I blame Anglo-centric maps for the misconception. I must search out this reconstruction, for Dad’s sake.

I’m not sure if this is a HP Hampden or an Avro Anson. Both were used on the station.

I applaud the CWGC for their work. I have visited several cemeteries in France and Belgium. Alas, I had to cancel my plans to get to the one at Oosterbeek for the 75th anniversary. Four things that particularly hit home to me:

  1. A gravestone inscribed to “Three Soldiers of the Royal Tank Regiment” and “Known unto God”. You have to stop and understand what must have occurred, and what is actually interred.
  2. A cemetery in Normandy where, from the dates on the gravestones and the changing regimental badges, it is clear how the village was attacked several times over a couple of weeks with new troops being fed into battle. Many were from my local “Dorset” regiment.
  3. The German cemetary a few yards away, with the same dates. German soldiers (as I recall) received a simple grey stone cross with name, birth date, death date. It was about the same size. Honours even?
  4. A large German memorial, arranged as a horseshoe shape, with bronze plates commemorating three soldiers to each “box”. I do not remember where this was or how many soldiers commemorated, but it was as moving as the list on the Menin Gate.

And speaking of the Menin Gate, I was touring Belgium with a friend in 1995, before taking part in the 180th anniversary of Waterloo. We had visited several cemeteries, and always looked at the visitors’ book. At the Menin Gate, the last entry was: “Found you at last, you old bastard. Ian Challender.” Ian Challender was a close friend, and from the date of his entry, in town that day. Wandering through the main square we were suddenly assaulted with hugs and kisses by him and his wife Jean, who had been dining as we walked past the window of the restaurant, and abandoned their lunch without warning. What the Belgians made of this sudden impetuous display of affection by “Brits” we will never know.

Published by

General Whiskers

Wargaming butterfly (mainly solo), unpainted model figure amasser, and Historical Re-enactor of the black powder era.

2 thoughts on “Remembrance Day thoughts”

  1. Hi Paul, if I am not mistaken the aircraft in the photo is a Lancaster – the distinctive plexiglas bomb aimers position is a tell-tale and you can just make out the open bomb bay doors). The Anson was a favourite aircraft of my father’s, both it and the Hampden were much smaller twin engined aircraft.

    1. Thanks Chris. As far as I can find from the records, the only large aircraft on site were Ansons and Hampdens. It is possible that this photo’ was taken using a visiting Lancaster, but I think unlikely.
      I have seen the preserved Anson in the local flying museum, but as yet, not a full-sized Hampden.
      As a kid, I bought my dad the Airfix kits of both, but he preferred to carve them from wood, having been trained as a boatbuilder in Norfolk.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.