3rd September 2009 and the seventieth anniversary of the outbreak of World War II.
It's three years since I posted this story on here so I think there might be a few people who missed it first time round and forgive me anyone else who has read it, but I thought I'd post it again because this was seventy years ago today too and it's one of my favourites of the Tinker's wartime memories recounted in his little book Bugle Boy. (he's that wee one on the left of the three on the cover)
The Tinker (father of dgr) joined the Royal Marines as a Boy Bugler at the age of 14 in May 1939 and within weeks of the outbreak of war he was drafted to the battleship HMS Iron Duke up in Scapa Flow.
In many respects this is a child's eye view of a grown man's war, he noticed the things a 14 year old would, but he was still in the thick of it on active service and so I think he gives it a very special and unique voice.
The day that World War II really did break out is vivid in my memory, not because it was a momentous occasion, but because Hitler really did annoy Herbie Tydd and I that day.
It was a Sunday of course and Sundays meant Church Parade.Those who remember the halcyon days before the war know that Church Parade was a spectacle, the parade ground at Eastney Barracks in Portsmouth would be awash with Marines and the band would be there in full ceremonial dress uniform. After Church the public would flock to watch the band put on a bit of a performance.
Herbie and I had been detailed for the band that day, our very first assignment in full dress uniform.I was in the second row of side drums, but Herbie, the blue eyed boy, was on tenor drums; a special honour as you got to wear the leopard skin, white kid gauntlets and were able to perform all manner of dextrous movements with the drum sticks, you had to be expert to do that.So there we were,14 years old and bursting with pride, Regimental drums, silver bugles, full dress uniform and white helmets, ready to perform before our very first audience.
We were in Church and about half way through the service when on orderly marched down the aisle and whispered to the Padre who then announced "We are now at war with Germany". He then proceeded to tell us that under the circumstances the rest of the parade would be cancelled and that we should make our way quietly back to barracks to await further orders.
So there! We never did get our debut performing in full dress uniform before an adoring public.The disappointment and chagrin was awful and Herbie and I never ever forgave Mr Chamberlain for that, couldn't he have waited just another couple of hours!
Now I swear this is true, but later that day we had our first wartime directive and it was "to drown all cats". We had two in our block and one had just had kittens, they had to be drowned though, orders is orders. I have never understood the thinking behind that, I believe it was the mistaken thought that we were about to be subjected to immediate air raids and therefore didn't want rabid cats everywhere.
I don't know if that was the true reason, the war was very odd at times.