They bury Keith today.

 

 

He didn’t know that morning as

he dressed for work and planned his day

that evil also did the ordinary things

whilst planning.

Tourists said he smiled and posed

for photos,

Joked with children, just was there,

Protecting.

Today, as he makes his final journey

watched by thousands,

A thin blue line of police officers

will line the route, heads bowed

as he passes.

The gap where he should have been

closed up, tight, as they stand together.

Tomorrow another police officer

will step forward from the line,

will do the ordinary things

whilst planning his day,

and go and stand where

Keith, an ordinary man,

stood on the day that evil

came to call.

 

Than You for your service, PC Palmer.

 

 

Advertisements

Chateau de la Londe, by my Dad

5734565 PTE G Fouracres

Sometime 13 PLN

Mostly C COY Carrier

Reinforcement from the Dorsets

Chateau De La Londe

After 48 years, memories fade, particularly of people’s names. I am not an East Anglian so over the years I have had no chance to meet people and be reminded, so please forgive me for this.

What I do remember is the spirit of the Battalion and the general ambience of the old Suffolk lads, a steady old lot who made you welcome as long as you stuck it as they did.

In later years I found out when I finally went there, that Bury St Edmunds , Stowmarket etc.are fine places, indeed Suffolk is beautiful, and Greene King Ales are amongst the finest in the land.

In those days I had not been to Suffolk and I wasn’t much of a drinker anyway. My only knowledge of East Anglia was from Elementary school geography (The Bread Basket of England), they had a funny accent and addressed everyone as “BOR”.

Since those days I have always regarded myself as a Suffolk man by service, not birth. I am always one of them.

Mention the Chateau and the memory is incessant shell and mortar fire. Leave your mess tin or mug outside your slit trench and it would be riddled with shrapnel in no time at all. Everything had to be below ground. Calls of nature there? No military history seems to deal with this, but the British soldier was fairly good at field hygiene. In C Coy we used an old German slit trench about 5-6 feet deep and dug a latrine in the bottom. A compo box on top formed the seat with lid so that you could sit in peace (?) well below ground.

You had marks on your bottom as the boxes were thick cardboard in a wooden frame about 2 ft x18”x 18”. The top surface (2 ft x 18”) had the wood frame round the edge and across the centre width leaving two “squares” of cardboard. One was cut out with the issue jack knife and the sharp wooden edges trimmed with the knife – but you could never linger long.

C Coy was in a field at the back of the Chateau towards Caen, with high earth banks with hedgerow on top. Three German tanks were there and a couple more were out in front (Mk. IV). I remember burying some of the German dead and for our lads , I think we used the orchard. We used a blanket with ours, but not the Germans. I shovelled the earth in, no bother, but did avert my eyes when the dirt was shovelled over their faces.

I do remember the little cemetery growing all the time we were there through casualties on patrol, and shell fire. There were dead Germans in the earth banks in dug-out firing positions, and strangely enough, I saw some with belts of machine gun ammunition with wooden bullets. They were dyed with a red wood stain. I’ve often thought of it since, and I guess it was what we would call bulleted blanks – a blank ammunition with very limited range for use in machine guns. These would provide the recoil for a gas operated machine gun so that it would give automatic fire. It must have been left over from pre – invasion exercises.

One German we did not bury was dressed like the others in camouflaged helmet jacket and trousers, lying face down with a wire coming from underneath him. Booby trap! However, it was hot weather so after some days we tied a rope round his ankle, lay down at a distance, and pulled. When he was clear we found it was just a telephone wire so he was quickly disposed of below ground.

No vehicles could come to our area because of the heavy fire, although the cooks were brought forward.

We had to take turns in carrying parties each night to bring up rations along the hedge from La Londe farm buildings. Before the cooks came I remember bringing up tea in a jerry can(!) on my shoulder. God knows what it tasted like. The danger was being caught in the open in a sudden mortar attack – we were never happy there out of reach of a slit trench.

Patrol activity went on fairly frequently, often with casualties. My friend from The Dorsets L/ Cpl Gordon Russell was killed on 7th July with Lieut. Peddar and some other lads. If I remember rightly they came under fire (in the day time) and got down, the first four were then killed, the rest withdrew under cover of smoke.

I remember one day a lad came in through our hedge calling “Don’t shoot!” He had got lost the night before separated from his patrol and could not find his way back. He crawled about in the corn next day but kept hearing German voices until eventually he heard us.

Another time some lads came busting through the hedge in the day under fire (from patrol), and it was only when I pointed to the blood running down one lad’s hand on to the floor that he realised he had been hit. It turned out to be a bullet through the flesh in the fore arm.

Patrols from the Chateau , in retrospect, seemed to be a very high risk business with very frequent casualties.

One night myself (Bren gunner) a L/Cpl and one other were detailed to proceed down a sunken lane from C Coy position towards the German line. At 2 or 3 am, I forget which, I was to open fire from just in front of their positions, which would draw attention to us! While the Germans were preoccupied with us other patrols of ours would be able to get back safely.

In a state of high tension we crawled out from our position through a gap in the barbed wire that the REs had erected the day before in front of the Chateau position.

I remember a loud bang and a blinding white light. Thinking it was the Germans on us who had fired a Verey pistol, I ran with the Bren to get out of the light (and of danger). But I collided with our three rolls of Dannert wire and collapsed in confusion with the Bren. I lay there panting and the light burned out.

Panic over, we managed to find each other and continued down the hedge towards the Germans. We agreed that one of us had set off one of our own trip flares in crawling out.

The hedge was a double one with a lane in the centre. It was lined with German dug outs and abandoned equipment. Halfway down was a Sherman tank that looked intact , but in fact had a small hole in one side just above the tracks where a solid shot had penetrated.

About 20 feet from the known German position we waited, I behind the Bren knowing full well that they must be thoroughly roused by now.

The L/Cpl had the watch, which we watched anxiously, dying a thousand deaths as the minutes slowly went by. Knowing that all hell would break loose when we fired, and we still had to get back as best we could.

The minute hand the 12 o’clock position, the L/Cpl said “RIGHT!” and tapped me on the shoulder. I aimed as best I could in the dark and squeezed the trigger, knowing that now we would be the focus for the whole German Army in Normandy.

To our alarm the “working parts” of the Bren went forwards with a crash, but did not fire; There was a double feed into the breech. It seemed to us that every German in miles must have heard us, but nothing happened. Training took over:- Cock gun, mag off. The rounds in the mag had got tangled, probably in the panic in the wire.

The misplaced rounds were quickly ejected, Magazine replaced, and bursts of five rounds commenced, spraying their positions from side to side. Having fired off all the Mags we made a rapid withdrawal back up the hedge, expecting at any moment retribution would come down on us.

Nothing happened! Just before we reached safety they fired up the hedge. Twigs were falling off the branches, but it was firing in the dark and so we got back in.

I suppose it proves the saying! The coward dies a thousand deaths, the hero dies but one”.

The other fragments that linger; – Mr Woodward, – young, fit, blond, with a light beard. We always shaved using tea in our mess tins. He had a skin infection (Fly’s dirt) . He was a tower of strength and a fine example to us youngsters.

The air bombing of Caen just in front of us, before 185 Brigade went in, the bombers flying through the German flak, dead steady, then the clouds of smoke and flame as they released their bombs, just in front of us.

We jumped up and down with joy. I remember one lad saying “This will shake the bastards” I t was only after the war that I read that it was mostly French civilians that died there.

Funny thing, we never imagined that any civilians would be close to the front, on the other side.

Then another Division (49th?) were going to attack through us, down the cornfield in front towards Caen.

Their Vickers heavy machine guns came up yhe day before and dug in in our hedge to support the attack.

We knew all hell would break loose when they started, so three of us went into a German dug-out. This had logs over, – all neatly sawed, and most likely built before the invasion.

We lay on our faces as the attack went in towards La Bijude and Le Bisey.The German return fire came in, as we had anticipated and the ground shook; even in the dug-out at times I thought my end had come.

The Vickers guns in the hedge were knocked out one by one, but those lads somehow or other got down into the valley of death and at last the Chateau was behind the line.

We could walk around above ground.

The next fragment is an RE Mine clearing team coming up afterwards to our position. Some prodded with bayonets, mine tape was put down, and we watched with interest.

Others behind disarmed the mines that were found, and then a three-tonner came and the disarmed mines were put in the back. Then as we watched, the three tonner following in the wake of the mine clearing team ran over a mine they had missed.

I remember a cloud of black smoke in the air over the cab, then it rained chunks of tyre!

Being a 4×4 vehicle, the cab was high up and I remember the RE driver climbing down, somewhat shaken by the affair.

I do remember that we Infantry types were were somewhat amused, but in retrospect, it was no laughing matter.

I went back to the Chateau privately a few times over the years, and walked those hedges with such memories. In later years the hedges have been grubbed out, including the great earth banks where the tanks were. The last time was in the late 1980s, early in the year before the foliage and undergrowth had grown.

The Chateau wall is just as we left it in 1944, full of shell holes, and round the outside the German slit trenches are still visible before the new growth starts.

We had a metal detector, (my son and his friend) and we uncovered hundreds of Spandau empty cases where they had been fired. Plus the old 303 unfired, and empty cases, a trip flare post, a mine, and a shell.

Needless to say we left well alone. The whole area is so full of shell and mortar fragments that a metal detector never stops buzzing

“ “ULFIE”

Over the years I always remembered Ulfie, although memories mist over. One of the stalwarts of C. Coy, always cheerful. Another old stalwart was the young Sgt Ken Powter. These men were the salt of the earth. As far as I know, they received no medals, but they were the cement that bound us together and we survived drawing on our mutual comradeship.

I remember, during one of the bombardments we suffered at the Chateau, Uffie hollering out for help. A big shell must have collapsed the side of his slit trench, pinning him down. I heard him and I also cowered in my slit trench trying to keep hold of sanity.

Over 50 years later I met him again. I told him I had heard him, but had laid low and survived. We laughed, but that was how it was, war is not like a movie.

Afterwards when the position was behind the line I was able to wander round. Anyone who could be there and see the macabre wreckage must find it imprinted on his mind. I won’t describe what I remember, enough to say that there is no glory in war.

What I have come away with is something precious. The remembrance of my former comrades who supported me. Some we pay homage to in the War Cemeteries. You learn in hindsight the true meaning of BROTHERLY LOVE.

The day, oh the day, oh the day.

Pink and white roses and sparkling wine

Confetti caught up in the grass;

Beautiful dresses and sparkling eyes

and sunshine from morning til night.

Friends catching up, and children playing

music and kisses and hugs;

the vows that we made, and the love that we shared

and the day, oh the day, oh the day.

 

Time has now passed

and that day disappeared

as everything does in the end

but the love is still there

in the hugs that we share

and I treasure each moment with you.

 

 

We talk of that time

when our love was still new,

when we promised our lives we would share;

We remember the vows, the music, the love

and the day, oh the day, oh the day.

 

Mistakes I made


I’ve
 often worried about mistakes I made when my children were young. The other day, my youngest daughter wrote a searingly honest post on her blog, prompted by the story currently in the news about a young girl who has run away with her teacher.

I’m sure that if my children sat down with me individually, they could all remind me of things I did that hurt them, or that upset them. I don’t think that will happen, but if it did, I would admit my faults, and apologise unreservedly for all the times I failed.

It occurs to me though, that we are all affected in some way by things that have happened to us during our lives. These things are part of what made us into the people we are today. Past hurts can make us determined to be better parents to our own children.

I was blessed with wonderful parents who loved me and brought me up to the absolute best of their ability. I never doubted their love, and as a young child I always believed that they knew best.

In fact as I grew and started to form my own opinions about things that I knew were not in line with theirs, I did so quietly. I’d learned that my parents had very fixed views about some things, and that it was probably easier just to keep quiet about my own differing views.

It was as a result of my upbringing that when my children reached the age of about sixteen, I started to trust them with deciding when they were going to come home. The question was always “What time will you be home?”, and never an order to be home at a certain time. It worked for us. They often came home earlier than expected, because they knew it was their decision.

It was as a result of the trust I placed in my youngest daughter at the age of sixteen that she got into the difficulties she talked about in her blog. This has affected her all her life, has contributed to the bouts of depression she has suffered from, and has ultimately shaped her into the person she is today.

Whilst I cannot say that I’m glad it happened to her, I can say that I think that it made her a more thoughtful parent to her own teen. She will always have in the back of her mind the problems that might arise if he’s allowed to be in the company of some other adults too much. She will be watching for problems. She won’t automatically trust other parents with her child, as I did when she was sixteen…. and she might not expect her teen to be able to cope with making his own decisions when he is that age.

Perhaps as a result of her experiences, my daughter will be more like my parents were …she’ll have learned from my “mistakes” just as I learned how to parent from what I perceived to be their mistakes. Who knows? Maybe that’s why there’s such a bond between Grandparents and Grandchildren!

Genes will out

I had a long break from my blog because basically, I was sulking after the website lost my work. It’s so disheartening to write for over two hours, and then find it was all for nothing. 

I can’t believe that it’s already a week since we returned home after a lovely holiday in Cornwall. We stayed in a really nice holiday park near St Austell. We chose it mainly because we wanted to revisit The Eden project…last visited seven years ago, when we spent our honeymoon in St Ives.


Eden was as beautiful as ever, and we spent a very happy day there. I’d recommend it if you haven’t been. We were less impressed with The Lost gardens of Heligan, though to be fair, we didn’t see all of it. I think perhaps we had visions of something different, and it didn’t live up to those expectations. if you’re very fit and up to walking longish distances on a very hilly site, you’d probably love it, but we weren’t up to that on that particular day. I think you’d need your walking boots as well, though that isn’t necessary on the paths that we took that day.


At the end of our holiday, we went to Weymouth to stay with my cousin Lesley and her partner Clive, who are running their first B&B (The Alendale Guest House, in case you want a few days away.)


This was the first time Lesley and I had met. Our other cousin, Trudy, had traced Lesley through Genes Reunited. Trudy’s Grandfather, my Grandfather, and Lesley’s Great Grandfather were brothers. I don’t know what grade of cousins that makes us, but I don’t care. We feel like family to me. I don’t know how Lesley feels, but she and Clive made us feel so welcome, and it felt just like visiting family we’ve always known.


Perhaps “genes will out”, as they say, or perhaps our Grandfathers are up there somewhere looking down on us and are happy that we are bringing the family back together again. In fact if we brought all the “Fouracres” clan together it would be an enormous get-together. We are a large family, and although I know my aunts and uncles, sadly I haven’t even met most of my cousins….perhaps one day…

Genes and all that

I had two phone conversations today, one with my cousin Ann, who said we are so much alike in our attitudes that she thinks we must really be sisters separated at birth, and the other from our Auntie, who was talking about how much my youngest daughter looks like me, and how when Corinne was small it was just like having me as a toddler again.

It started me thinking  about where my looks and my nature come from, and wondering how much I have passed down through my children to their children. Certainly when I was younger, I seemed to be quite a mix of my parents. People meeting either one of them would remark “Aren’t you like your Mum/Dad?”, depending on which one I was with. I think it has been a bit like that with some of my children, though not all.

People would say of my eldest son, “He looks just like his father”, and strangely now, he looks a lot like his father’s cousin. When he was younger, however, his little girl would point at a photo of my Dad at the same age, and say “Daddy!” If Lee had grown a moustache, it could have been a photo of him. The thing Lee has inherited from his dad is his work ethic, and his talent for being able to do practical things around the house and on the car.

My eldest daughter looks like her father’s side of the family, in build as well. She is built like her paternal Grandmother. I’m sure she’s grateful not to have inherited my build. But in nature, she’s like my Mum. Is that genetics? Or the result of her great love for my Mum, a wanting to be like her?

My youngest son looks just like his dad, but could not be more dissimilar in his nature…. That he gets from my mother’s side of the family. he’s just like the elder of my two brothers.

My youngest daughter looks like me sometimes, but at other times she looks like her aunt and great aunt on her father’s side. By coincidence, her great aunt was the mother of the cousin who looks like Lee. What she hasn’t inherited from them is her hourglass figure…that is very definitely from me. She’s sensitive and emotional, friendly and open. A very definite mix of both her Dad and me.

It’s a little difficult to tell what my Grandchildren have inherited yet, apart from my beautiful eldest Granddaughter. She is so much like her Mum and her Mum’s family. Physically she resembles her Grandad ….. no bad thing, he’s a handsome chap. But from her Mum and her Grandmother she gets a talent for always looking lovely, hair and makeup perfect. She’s capable and helpful to her Mum, and that’s the only similarity I can see to me. I was the same as a teenager. But I get the impression that’s how her Mum was too, so I probably can’t take credit for that.

All this leads on to my wondering what would I choose from my relatives if I could steal their looks or personality?

For a start I would want my father’s incredible intelligence, and the openness he displayed with his feelings towards the end of his life. I’d like my mum’s beautiful face, her lovely high cheek bones, and her quiet friendliness, and her concern and kindness when her friends were going through tough times.

I’d like my Auntie Marion’s bubbly personality and sense of humour, and my Auntie Jean’s kindness and loving and thoughtful ways.

I inherited my Great Aunt Florrie’s build. I hope I didn’t inherit her fearsome personality, but I’d certainly like to be as practical as she was, and to be able to cook like she did. She was known in the family for always speaking her mind, and I don’t think I do that, but what I remember is the kindness she showed me as a little girl. She gave me my first taste of cleaning for other people, when I stayed with her at the house where she was housekeeper to an elderly man. She told me it was important to clean thoroughly, and reiterated what my Nana used to say “Look after the corners and the middle will look after itself”. She had a hard shell, with a soft centre that she didn’t show to most people, but all in all, she wasn’t a bad person to be compared to

Memories of Nana

My two year old grandson got me thinking this morning. he apparently pointed at the little photo of me on Facebook, and said “Nana in there!”

That brought back some memories for me; just odd little things that I remember from when I was a child. Probably the earliest memory is of sitting in my pram with the hood up. The trim was the wrong side of the Greek key pattern. My mother told me she put away the pram a couple of months before my brother was born, so I wouldn’t think he was in my place, so I couldn’t have been more than 15 months old.

I had a dummy as a baby, and my next, very clear memory is of my Nana picking up my dummy and saying “Jennifer” When I held out my hand for it, she threw the dummy in the fire. I don’t remember any great distress over that, I just accepted it was gone, and as I didn’t know you could buy them in the shop, I don’t think I made a fuss. Later though, when my brother was newly born, I remember stealing his dummy, and sitting in Nana’s leather armchair with my head under a cushion so nobody would know what I was doing.

Just a few months before my Mum died, she mentioned that at about that time, I would talk about wanting to see the “pignig.” They couldn’t let me see it, because they didn’t know what I was talking about. Fifty years later  I was able to enlighten her. It was the teddy bear’s picnic. I think I mixed up an actual memory of my Dad pushing me in a pushchair and lifting me up to show me children playing on swings and slides, with a dream, where the children were bears, dressed in clothes. I know my Dad used to sing “The Teddy Bears Picnic” to me, so that might explain it!

My Grandad died when we were in Germany. My Dad was in the Army. I have three clear memories of Grandad. The first is of standing between his legs for a cuddle. He had thrombosis, so couldn’t sit me on his knee. The second is of eating his dinner, sharing with him. Mum had told me he was very fastidious about food, so it didn’t really add up, until she told me that at about eighteen months I stopped eating. They discovered that if I thought my Grandad was giving me his dinner, I would eat, so Nana started putting both meals on a huge serving platter, one at each end.

The third memory is of Elsie Shufflebottom. Elsie lived at the bottom of the yard. She always got the best, a share of Grandad’s sweets, a bit of his icecream. Worse than that, she was beautiful. She had long curly hair, so long she could sit on it. She apparently only appeared when I wasn’t there, and Grandad described her clothes to me …”Do you know, she had the bonniest pinny I’ve ever seen!” He would tease me with “Well I’d like to give you some of this, but I promised Elsie Shufflebottom she could have it. Then he’d relent, saying as she wasn’t there just then, I could have it instead. I was very jealous of Elsie!

My memory of my Nana is more hazy, but just as precious. It’s of a feeling, rather than of a particular event. It’s a feeling of great love and security. Feeling safe, and just knowing that she really, really loved me. There are lots of things I do remember. Helping her with the mangle in the back yard, going with her to the town, visiting the indoor market, and having a drink in Woolworths, sitting up on a swivel stool. Her sitting in her chair by the back window in the “kitchen”, which was what we’d call the living room now. But the main memory is the one I’d really like my Grandchildren to have of me.. a memory of a Nana who really really loved them.

Previous Older Entries