A Special Old Gent


War Hero
Book Reviewer
I seem to have developed a strange complex about starting a thread - almost as if doing so would somehow reflect badly on my ability to use the search function. But I decided that as I am a Newbie I had better start acting like one, and starting threads about all and sundry and annoying people no end. :-D

On to the theme of this thread:

The other day, as part of my job, I met a fantastic old gent of 89. He'd spent 38 years in the Territorial Army, an Artillery Division, seen action on the Normandy Landing Beaches, the Netherlands, and Italy. He has a hundred and one stories to tell, but one thing he said in particular caught my attention.

He had been a part of some small party raids along the coast of France - they were taken across by the Royal Navy in small craft, dropped off, and (in theory) picked up after wreaking merry hell on whatever they could find. This sounded rather familiar to me.

The conversation then went something like this:

Him: "And that's not including all the stuff I did with the Special Forces."

Me: "Special forces? The SAS, or SBS? Or the SOE?"

Him: "History buff, are ye?"

Me: "Errr... well. Yes."

Him: "Harrumph. Good girl. Anyway, lassie, not the SAS and all that. Nutters, them lot. I did small raids in France and the Netherlands."

Me: *mind puts 2 and 2 together and makes 5* "Mr. T... have you ever heard of 10 Commando?"

Him: *eyes me quizzically* "Might have."

Me: "10 Inter-Allied Commando, made up of soldiers from occupied France, Poland, Norway and all that... all very hush-hush, top secret..."

Him: *twinkle in his eye* "Know them? I ruddy was one of them lass!"

Me: "You were attached to 10 Commando?!"

Him: "They were attached to us, lass."

Me: "So... you did raids with them in France and the Netherlands?"

Him: "Aye. And Norway, even before the likes of D-Day was even a thought. Norwegians were great lads, hard as nails. But I shot one of them by accident. He had a soft cap like a German soldier might have and he was climbing out of a darkened window... you know, ole ticker going like mad, emotions het up... I shot him. Never forgave myself. My CO was very good about it all, said the silly bugger should have known better and these things happen in war. We never spoke of it again. Harrumph. Strange I remember that now after all these years."

Me: "Sorry I dragged up old nightmares."

Him: "What yer being sorry for, daft lass? You're one of the only young people to ever ask me about it all."

A sad indictment on our generation, don't you think?

I actually sat in my car and had to get quite a lot of "grit" out of my eye. He's in a bad way, his wife is struggling to cope, and social services seems to have abandoned him to his fate.

So my request is two fold:

1) Has anyone ever met someone like this who has shared an amazing story such as this? If so, I'd like to read it. Please post it here! Or if you've brilliant stories of your own, some of you old timers, or even young timers, please share them. I, for one, enjoy this kind of thing.

2) Does anyone know of a charity or something I can contact, in the hopes of getting him and his wife a bit more support and help? Is that the kind of thing H4H helps with? The Royal British Legion?

Any answers gratefully received.
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Book Reviewer
SSAFA or the Legion will help. Also because of his age he is entitled to extra benefits and attention from Social Services, it wouldn't be the first time that SS haven't picked up the age thing.


Lantern Swinger
Good on yar magda. My Father is 93 and the RBL and council have him looked after well at home. One only has to ask and usually it is done.


War Hero
Book Reviewer
Two men I have met with stories to tell .. very recently, Jim Booth who was a member of Combined Operations Pilotage Parties and who took questions at a recent function on Hayling Island (see http://www.navy-net.co.uk/history/62107-guiding-light-d-day-landing-craft.html and links within that thread) ..

in 1964, Albert Pagels, a German living in Chile in 1914 who had piloted the Dresden to a secure anchorage after the Battle of the Falklands and obtained coal for her, before she finally fled to her deserved end at Juan Fernandez. He showed me the medal the captain of the Dresden had had his coppersmith make for him out of an American coin.

Also just recently I was lent the last family copy of the privately produced reminescences of a man who was in submarines before (and during) WW1. One of the pictures showed him with an RHS ribboin on his right breast - not mentioned in the book at all! Turned out that he had rescued from the Thames a woman who was trying to drown herself.

Kipling wrote so sympathetically of these people in his poem The Changelings:

.... I was a dealer in stocks and shares,
And you in butters and teas,
And we both abandoned our own affairs
And took to the dreadful seas ...

... Now there is nothing---not even our rank---
To witness what we have been;
And I am returned to my Walworth bank,
And you to your margarine!

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