Yet Another Trip Down Memory Lane

While I was having a sort out recently, I came across this lovely photo of my dad as a baby. When he was born in early 1942, my grandad, Ken, was away fighting in World War II. Photographs, including this one, were sent to him across the seas, but it was four years before my dad saw his father for the first time.

At one stage, it didn’t look as if my grandad would ever set eyes on his firstborn. My nan, Joan, received a telegram reporting her husband as ‘Missing in action, presumed dead’. For my dad, being a little boy, it didn’t have any meaning. He was too young and he’d never met this man he was supposed to call ‘Dad’. Joan, on the other hand, was naturally devastated and found life hard. Mother and son clung to one another and an unbreakable bond grew between them.

Then came the news that my grandad was alive but a prisoner of war in Italy. My nan was relieved, but she just wanted her husband home.

When the war was over and my grandad was finally released and home, she wept tears of joy and held onto him as if she’d never let him go. My grandad’s eyes took in his four-year-old son and a grin broke out on his face.

My dad can remember his first words to his father very clearly. “Go home, soldier!” he said, a scowl upon his face.

From my dad’s viewpoint, it had been him and his mum for four years. Yet, here was this stranger, hugging and kissing his mother and taking her away from him. He didn’t like it one little bit and felt that this intruder should jolly well turn round and go back from where he’d come from!

With time, my dad’s resentment faded and he learned to trust and love his father. They loved spending time together playing and my grandad taught him how to make things. My dad still has a truck his father made for him out of wood.

It wasn’t long before my dad found himself with siblings, five in total. Over the years, they’ve remained remarkably close. I like to think that my grandad and nan are looking down upon the family and feel very proud of them, including the man who once said, “Go home, soldier!”

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29 Responses to Yet Another Trip Down Memory Lane

  1. Steve says:

    Truly a wonderful trip down memory lane!

  2. TanGental says:

    Goodness imagine that homecoming!!! What extraordinary times they lived in

  3. EDC Writing says:

    … Memory Lane … you evoke memories of my late Dad who not until he turned 80 told of how scared he was as a child in Birmingham during the WWII air raids, his parents wouldn’t let him be evacuated.

    • esthernewton says:

      They were certainly hard times; I can’t even begin to imagine what it was like. My grandad told me that the day the war ended and he was told he was going home, an hysterical German man ran at him, pointing a gun. He really thought he was going to die, but the German clearly had a change of heart and ran off. We’re so lucky and often forget how fortunate we are.

  4. Helen says:

    Ooh this one is a bit close to home… so good to know there was a happy ending for you.

    My grandmother got the same telegram (Christmas Eve), but her child had been born stillborn and it was all too much for her (she threw herself and one of her children in front of a car, tying her other child to some railings to watch – unbelievable, but true). That’s why my grandmother spent her life in hospital. By the time granddad came back – he too was a prisoner of war (Japan) – lives had changed irrevocably. Meanwhile, time in care before being fostered (people used to take in foster children to act as domestic skivvies in those days) affected my mother.

    So really good to know there was a happier ending for your family. Thanks for sharing, Esther. Much appreciated. The war did have such an impact on people. Extraordinary times indeed.

    • esthernewton says:

      Oh, my goodness, that’s awful. Such a sad story, Helen.

      • Helen says:

        Yes, it is a sad story. My mother was told her mother had died. She only discovered the truth when she came of age. What is especially poignant is that my grandmother never learnt to speak English (she had married my grandfather in Gibraltar). Imagine spending forty years “locked up” with people who don’t speak the same language as you. At the age of eight my mother didn’t speak English either. She lost her native tongue because her foster family couldn’t speak her language. People didn’t question things like that in those days. You were thought lucky to have a life and a home after the war. There are so many sad stories from that time. Am very glad your story is one of the happy ones. That remark about the German running around showed just how lucky you were.

      • esthernewton says:

        How awful; it’s unbelievable to think that people were treated in this way. Such a sad life.

  5. Helen says:

    I’m not very good at writing these blog entries. I meant my grandmother spent the rest of her life in hospital (a hospital with locked wards, now converted to a prison); her stillborn baby would have been her first son after two daughters.

  6. Annika Perry says:

    Lovely story, Esther and it can’t have been easy to share his mum after they’d been in their own for a few years. Great it worked out so well…the photo is sooo cute and cheeky!

  7. Simon says:

    This is a wonderful little story this is, it brings home the reality of growing up for our parents. 🙂

  8. Hard though it is to believe, I actually missed the War years, but I’ve listened to stories from people who were there. I complain that my kids don’t appreciate how lucky they are, but I didn’t either.

  9. raven avery says:

    What a lovely memory, I hope they had a laugh about it in later years 🙂

  10. Loving your memory lane posts Esther. Really lovely. 🙂

  11. Sarah says:

    Thanks for sharing this precious story. A similar thing happened in our family. My dad’s dad served in the Navy, and when he finally came home my dad reputedly told him to “Get back to Chatham!”

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