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…


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