Guest Blog Post – Day 7 – He’s My Hero…
Today’s guest blog post is the final of the seven and is, I think, an excellent way to end the week. This post is written by ‘Charlie Foxtrot’ who produces the excellent ‘Letters2Nowhere’ Blog detailing how her relationship between herself and her soldier boyfriend is affected by his life in the Army. Read it here http://themodstolemyboyfriend.wordpress.com/ (It’s one of the very few blogs I subscribe to, getting her posts delivered to my email inbox.)
Anyway, on with the final guest blog from @Letters2Nowhere:
We were lying next to each other on the bed, our feet dangling off the end, looking up at our ceiling. “Who is your hero?” My other half asked me. I thought about it, and decided then that it was about time I wrote my answer down.
My Grandfather came to live with us when my Grandmother became very ill and arthritic. They moved together, but tragically she did not see out her first year back in the United Kingdom, the first indeed since her husband had retired from the RAF.
To give him something to take his mind from the solitude which inevitably had begun to envelope him, Grandad joined our local “Probus” club. These are rotary clubs designed for ex-professional people (back then where we lived, only gentlemen). Naturally, as exists in any organisation where the male ego congregates, within the club there was a pecking order, a hierarchy which was determined by rank or by achievement financially.
At this time most gentlemen of that “certain age” were World War Two veterans and so military rank was very important. Upon joining, the leader asked my Grandad what he had done in the war. “Pilot” was his simple reply. Assuming him to mean Pilot Officer, our leader smugly smiled and introduced himself by return as Squadron Leader (we shall call him Smith).
Squadron Leader Smith was very proud of his status as the highest ranking officer in our community and took great satisfaction each year as being the man who had the honour of placing the wreath of poppies on the war memorial on behalf of the RAF.
My Grandfather never corrected him. He did not want to belittle someone so proud of what they had achieved during the war. He maintained his silence throughout his years within the group and made a great deal of close friends. Only a few very close friends, some still living now, knew the truth.
This, therefore, is the reason my Grandfather is my hero. His quiet dignity. His willingness to put anyone before him. His description of his career as “just a job”.
It was not what he achieved. It was not his rank. It was not his honours, his CB (one honour beneath a Knighthood), his CBE (Commander of the British Empire), his Distinguished Flying Cross, or Second DFC signified by the Bar to it.
It was how he carried these honours and this title. How he shrugged them off, called them “that old stuff”, put them in a beaten up old trunk and forgot about them. It was the way he used his best RAF dress one day to fight a fire, destroying it completely. In fact, the only thing he kept well preserved was the invitation and order of service for Winston Churchill’s private funeral.
It was the fact that the majority of his buddies did not find out his true title or honours until they were sat listening to my mother read his life’s story out at his funeral. It was looking around to the middle pew and seeing the mouth of Squadron Leader Smith drop so low you could have driven a car into it.
My Grandfather was quite a man. He did not need to fight for this country, as he was born in the southern hemisphere, but he came all the way to England to “get stuck in” as a pilot. He served the entirety of WWII within the RAF, and watched his best friend and wingman get shot out of the sky by an anti-aircraft gun over the beach at Dieppe, where they had been laying smoke virtually on the deck along the highwater mark. They had been aiming for him. He felt after this moment that he had been living on his best friend’s time. He took care of his friends widow as if she was his own sister, indeed she became a part of our family and we cared for her when he could do it no longer.
Post war, he was the man in charge of Skybolt, the British military’s nuclear air-launched missile programme, which he fought for the RAF to retain in the face of stiff competition by the Navy, until it was inevitably replaced with the submarine-launched Polaris system in 1962. He ended his military career in Whitehall as an Air Vice Marshal and Director General of Organisation.
He was so much more than this to me. He was the man who would sit on the beach with me for hours, even though his years serving in the desert had left him with a hatred of sand. He was the man who would drive in my father’s car to pick me up from piano lessons, despite a horrific plane crash during the war that had left him with a nauseating abhorrence of the smell of petrol.
He hand built me from scratch a dolls house with working electric lights for each room. He spoke to no one in conversation of his war time sorties, yet he quietly recorded them with museums so that history would not be bereft. He left beautiful gifts for myself and my sister in his will so that we would always remember him. He was quiet. He did his duty without bravado, pomp or circumstance.
He was, and always will be, my hero.
And it is with this great story of a great man that this week-long series of guest posts comes to an end…Thank you to all seven contributors. It has been far more successful than I could ever have imagined – and that is down to the quality of the writing.
Each and everyone has been fantastic. I am humbled to have had such great writers volunteering to write for my page.
Once again, thank you for writing them, and thank you for reading them.