Friday, 6 June 2014

D-Day Dodgers

With all the news going on around us about the 70th celebrations of D-Day, my Littleun asked about his Grandpa and if indeed he had been at D-Day. So I started to do some research.

Granddad didn't talk much about the War, he had a few stories that he would tell but that was it. I respected his choice of not talking about it but it did mean there were gaps in my family history that we might never fill in.

Today I saw my Aunt and collected some items that were about Granddad's service history. This included his medals and a pipe that he has engraved with the names of all the towns and action he was involved in. Nowhere was there a mention of D-Day. That is until I found an article he had writen for a reply to a newspaper about D-Day Dodgers. It seems that this is what my Granddad was. He was in fact a member of the 8th Army and in Italy during the D-Day campaign. Not really knowing what that was about I read up online and am saddened to find that it is actually what Lady Astor called those not at D-Day, seemingly ignoring the service others were making across the War.

So in honour af all those who served I thought I'd leave you with my Granddads own words, the letter he wrote at the 60th Anniversary, and a link for the reply to Lady Astor, in song format, from the D-Day dodgers...
In a small cardboard box I have a tiny strip of orange ribbon. Attached to the ribbon there is a small shaped piece of metal, known as the African Star. These stars were awarded to those who served in the Middle East during 1942. It also has a little figure eight upon it, indicating that the wearer fought in the 8th Army at El Alemein. It’s not very valuable but, at a time, pinned to our uniforms we were very proud to wear it. Therefore, I must say those who think the recipients were D Day Dodgers could have another thought coming to them.

Many of us joined the army in 1939, found ourselves with the B.E.F in France fighting a rearguard retreat to the beaches of Dunkirk, where eventually in mid channel, my particular rescue ship The Queen of the Channel was bombed and sunk. Nethertheless, when we were wrung out and dried it was not long before we were on our way to the Middle East to join the Western Desert Force, long before the 8th Army was formed. After the siege of Trubruk, which we held for several months, we nroke out to join the newly created 8th Army. Mnay battles later, and a retreat to El Alemein, we attacked and completely defeated the German Africa Korps. These were formidable German Troops, not old men or schoolboys!
Guess what? Just in case we dodgers became to idle, the Middle East forces, by sea and air, attacked the mainland of Europe through Sicily and Italy. Therefore being the first British troops to successfully set foot in Europe almost a year before the Normandy landings. D Day Dodgers? Don’t you believe it. At the end of 1943 it was thought necessary to reinforce the troops in England with battle experienced soldiers from the Middle East. Thousands from the 8th Army were convoyed home to prepare for Normandy. Then, through Belgium, Holland and Nijmegan we eventually crossed the Rhine to victory.
Yes I have the African Star with its little figure of eight, and the Italian Star. Of all the other bits and pieces bestowed upon me (He actually had several other stars and campaign medals) it is the African Star I prize the most. My medals have remained on their cardboard box for the past 60 years or more. Even so I cannot remember a medal being struck for the D-Day landings…
May I remind those who scoff, of one particular soldier who was brought home from the Middle East. He was put in charge of all the troops that took part in the D-Day landings, British and American. He was Field Marshall Montgomery. Another D-Day Dodger?

I would have thought we had become a little wiser as the years passed us by. But now, in my wisdom, when I stroke a piece of shrapnel that has remained embedded in my face for the last 62 years, I consider myself very lucky not to have joined those of the Middle East who also missed D_Day. They remain in their silence beneath their headstones in the desert or the olive groves of Italy…


Wednesday, 4 June 2014

Scrap books and families

Making scrap books is a rather lost art form here in the UK, you hear a bit about it but not much. Well a while ago I thought about keeping one but didn't like the suggestions that websites and magazines were offering. What I wanted was something I could pass down to Littleun for him to use with his family after I have gone. Something that contained memories, recipes, smells and reminders.

I found a simple plain page book, nothing fancy and an A5 size with good quality paper inside and I started adding. Now bulging there is still plenty of room to add more but if you choose to peek inside you'll see that I have started with the recipes, some of which you'll find here in these blog pages, that are for our feast and celebrations days. Sabbat foods and offerings. Further in and you'll see pressed flowers from my gardens and from gardens where I've visited (am lucky to normally find the resident gardener who will often allow me a cutting or two).
The odd smudge of something adorns corners, a thumbprint in chocolate powder form Littleun nestles amongst the back. Suggestions for natural methods of removing stains, for stopping greenfly, for cleaning windows. Ways to do that without using chemicals.
There are photos waiting to be stuck in, days of running through poppy fields with bubbles, picnics on hills and beaches and so many more memories.

Chasing bubbles in the poppies

Sleeping Jack in the middle of our garden living salad bowl
I told my partner that I was doing this, said please make sure Littleun gets it when the time comes and he mentioned that his grandmother had done something similar and it got me wondering if this is as lost an art form as I previously thought. So am throwing this out to find out, how many of you keep scrapbooks, what sort of things do you include and why?

Monday, 2 June 2014

It's June, so that must mean it's Litha soon

We moved a while back to pastures new. A good place, with a garden for Littleun, with the hills just a few yards away. One of the things we are enjoying is finding out how the locals do things.

It is very different from where we have come, there yes they celebrated many things but it was a bit of a split community. Here everyone knows everyone. Before we had even finished unpacking I could tell you the names of all our neighbours. I didn't know the names of my old neighbours, even though they had been there for the 13 years I'd lived there!

So we turned the calender over yesterday and started the countdown to Litha/Summer Solstice and had a look around in the area to see what they do for it. And boy are we spoilt for choice. After looking through it all we have decided to go and join our friends the Pentacle Drummers at their celebration a few miles over in the next town.

Here be a few things from their site about it all:

This Summer Solstice come and Join Eastbournes most popular drumming group, The Pentacle Drummers, Lords of Earthen Drums at their spectacular Summer Solstice event in their home town.

A fun filled day for all the family, with Ceremony, Drumming, Morris Dancing, Bouncy castles and slides, Sand pits, Fancy dress, Stoneage games, Belly dancers and much more, followed by an evening of Great music and dancing under the stars.


This event will be held on secure private enclosed grounds, so the whole family can play in a safe private environment.

The Line up so far.
Evening Entertainment:
Emma Harrop
DC Fontana
Inkubus Sukkubus

Daytime entertainment will be from:Devilstick Peat
Pentacle Drummers
Emma Harrop
The Sea Gypsies
More to be announced.

For the Kids there will be a free Bouncy Castle and Bouncy Slide, plus FREE professional Face Painting (not just for the kids though)

Other traditional summer fayre entertainment will include:
Have a Go Archery run by the
Herstmonceux Archers, Hook A Duck, Splat The Rat, Kids Coconut Shy, Pick a Straw, Penny Roller, Tin Can Ally, Teddy Tombola, Bottle Tombola, Water Splat Stocks (filled with your favourite Pentacle Drummer!), Toy Stall, Bric'a'Brac, Books.

There will also be stalls selling magnificent items and crafts.

This event will also be supporting
WRAS, a local wild life ambulance service.

Link to the Pentacle Drummers Facebook Page
Please do click on the photo above for a link jump to their Facebook event page.

So mixed up with our personal celebrations and family gathering, we are looking forward to it all.