Dear Dad...it is nearly five whole years since you took your last breath on this Earth, and shortly before you died you pleaded with me to write about it. Something about WW2, I didn't understand exactly what and so all this time later, I, in your memory have decided to give living on wartime rations as they happened only 75 years on a serious attempt. I no longer have you or Mum to talk to, so I have been speaking to others who have wartime memories.
For me 75 years on the war started on 3rd September, 2014=1939
You were already a soldier when war broke out. A handsome Coldstream Guard actually. I believe you were based at St. James Palace.
I have a picture of you on my living room wall. A copy of the one that used to hang in the Best Room at home. We all have a copy of this picture Dad, all seven of your children are very proud of the life you lived.
Being the baby of the family you were quite old when I was born. I'm thinking you were 49, and Mum would have been 43. The thought of me possibly having a four year old fills me with ooohhhh! And I was rather poorly in my childhood to boot.
Though not my fault, as a mother I now realise how much worry you and Mum must have experienced, not having my final diagnosis until my surgery at age, was I five ?
You willingly went from working on the land to army life. A young man...off to London then war broke out. Your official war diary is so vague. First I believe you were sent to France. I know you were badly injured and the boy you joined up with was killed. Did you get shipped back to Newcastle? For some months you were not fit for active service, but undertook training, especially cooking I believe. So that's how you learnt to cook so well...but only ever when Mum was poorly. Well with Mum and six girls why would you need to!
Next did you go to Africa then Italy? I know you fought in the terrible battle of Monte Casino. In my younger years you were happy to talk about some of the things and as I sat on the arm of your rocking chair you would proudly show me your medals and say about each one, but Dad then I was too young to understand. When I was older you didn't want to talk about it anymore.
I know that when the D day landings took place you were already in France once more, injured again and waiting for a boat to bring you back to England, not too far from the Normandy beaches.
People who knew you before you went to war say you used to be the life and soul of the party, but when you came back that had gone. I always remember you sitting happy to be watching us enjoy ourselves, but never wanting to join in. I don't believe I ever saw you touch a drop of alcohol, or maybe just a small glass of cider with Christmas dinner. I still can't smell cider without being taken back to childhood Christmases. I am also not a big drinker, but do indulge occasionally.
I can never ever remember you overeating. Not once. You worked hard...too hard sometimes. Probably you weren't always easy to live with...stuck in your ways. Your word was the final word.
I know you suffered with nightmares about the war...Mum had to stop you from watching the rememberence services where they dropped the poppies at the end because it caused you too much distress.
We lost Mum in 2003. I can see you now, the week after she died, cutting back the hydrangea heads because Mum had always said it must be done in March. Then you sold the family home to go and live with one of your children the other end of the county. Losing Mum we all found hard, losing the family home as well compounded this, but it was the right thing to do.
At first you did very well, keeping active until getting an infection and losing your confidence to go out. Then you lost the confidence to come downstairs. It was sooo sad to know you spent your days in your room. Surrounded by the past I found it very hard to stay with you in your room for very long. It made me feel so sad.
I now have the picture of the cattle drinking above my fireplace. My husband loves it. It faded somewhat in your very sunny room, but it's still a very special picture to us. I love the sound of the fire in the hearth as much as you did, but instead of an open fire we have a woodburner. Sometimes I sit by it with the door open, lost in my memories.
So Dad, although I can't work out exactly what it was you particularly wanted me to write about, I have tried and hope that doing this experiment is good enough for you. I am going to write extensively about it whilst also studying for a diploma in health care. Your Mother was a nurse wasn't she. Well I'm not nursing but caring for adults with learning disabilities. Quite a change from rearing pheasants!
So Dad...here goes...the first instalments of my war diaries are on their way...oh and hopefully soon we will get to our Winters End.
Love, J. x