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!”