Each year. on Remembrance Sunday or thereabouts I post one of the Tinker's (father of dgr) stories from his little memoir Bugle Boy, his boy's-eye view of the war from the height of 4ft 8" and a mere fourteen years of age...
Name that Tune!
Someone once asked me, how did
you buglers ever remember all those bugle calls? There were a lot of them and
we had the worst of two worlds, all the Army calls and also those applicable to
the Navy. I believe there were about 150 in total and, together with the ones
for the drum and the flute, they were taught within six months.
In October 1939 I ‘passed out’ in
front of Lieutenant Vivian Dunn as proficient on bugle, drum and flute, without
being able to read a single note of music, thereby earning another 1s 9d (9p) a
Well, you don’t always remember,
but that comes later, it was easy really – we gave them all one common
denominator, profanity, the more profane the words the easier they were to
commit to memory. I can still recall the worst ones now, sixty-seven years
later, so it must have worked well. As an example here is a clean one, it’s
‘Mail Call’ –
‘A letter from Lousy Lou boys,
A letter from Lousy Lou.’
Remember that and the tune sticks
On the other hand, another method
was used. I could never master the ‘First Mess’ beatings on a drum, I was a ‘thicko’
really, so the Bugle Major (a kindly man) stood behind me with a bass drum
stick and repeatedly beat them out on my shoulders until they had sunk in;
unfortunately the RM numerals on my shoulder epaulettes sunk into my shoulders
as well and had to be dug out later. I can remember that drum beat to this day,
so it must have worked. What a shame that we never had personal injury lawyers
in those days.
One occasion when my memory did
fail me was in January 1940. I had joined HMS Iron Duke on the Saturday and on
the Sunday morning I was told to report to Jimmy the One for instructions for
Sunday divisions. Who was Jimmy the One I asked, having been told that he was
the Executive Officer. I eventually found him and he instructed me (after he
had stopped laughing at the sight of me) to sound divisions in the port waist
at 0.900 hours.
The time got nearer and nearer to
0.900 hours and I still had no idea who, what or where the port waist was, so I
thought I must swallow my pride and ask this nice sailor, which I did.
‘Yer innit’, he said with all the
grace of an Elizabethan pirate.
When the divisions had all been
mustered in their different parts of the ship, the Captain said to me,
‘Bugler, sound the “Close Aft for
A simple call, easily remembered,
but at that moment I knew exactly how Sir Laurence Olivier would have felt if
he had forgotten the opening lines to Hamlet, sheer naked panic and terror. The
Captain could see that there was no way his bugler was going to remember ‘Close
Aft’ so, calling over the Sergeant-Major of Marines, in front of everyone
mustered on the quarterdeck he said,
‘March this bloody bugler away
and bring him back when he can remember the “Close Aft”.’
I suppose there have been worse
musical debuts but I have never forgotten that bugle call even to this day.
That was another way of learning.
I had the last laugh in a sense,
though. As we went to ‘Air Raid Warning Red’ I remembered the ‘Alarm to Arms –
Repel Boarders’, but a German dropped a bomb on us which served that Captain right
because it blew a ruddy great hole in the ship’s side. It didn’t pay to upset a
Royal Marine bugler, we had powerful friends.
...catching up with all your lovely comments and just full to the brim with the spirit of Orkney, the warmth of the welcome and the sheer magic of the place. We did museums, tombs, cliffs, beaches and more so a few posts will filter in over the coming weeks but most importantly this...our reason for the visit.
Friends may have seen this already elsewhere, but I wanted to share this moment with all of you because as you can imagine it was very special indeed, and also this comment, left here by the Chaplain, David Dawson, who you will see on the video...
"... I have to add that yesterday (October 14 2013) I had the privilege of meeting Len whilst onboard a launch for a memorial service over the wreck site of HMS Royal Oak in Scapa Flow. Len was there with his daughter to remember two of his friends (both Boy Buglers) who still lie with Royal Oak when she was torpedoed on 14 October 1939. With a strong voice, Len focused our thoughts when he spoke the exhortation from Binyon's poem, 'For the Fallen'. Len himself came to Scapa some eight weeks later to serve on HMS Iron Duke. His two friends, both of whom were younger than a couple of Sea Cadets whom Len met, preceded him never to return home. As presiding chaplain at yesterday's service, I can truly say that Len impressed all whom he met - including the RN Flag Officer Scotland and Northern Ireland, Rear Admiral Chris Hockley and his staff. A great character.Devon is blessed indeed!"
It is Monday October 14th, we are out on a boat on Scapa Flow, hovering over the site, marked by a buoy, of the Royal Oak war grave which is only fifteen feet below us, the wreaths and flowers have just been cast into the water...
In the absence of an invitation to Downing Street, or an official reception anywhere, we have had a little ceremony this morning, because the Tinker's Arctic Convoy medal has been delivered into his possession by Jim the Postie rather than the Prime Minister.
So we quickly put that right with coffee and a presentation and I stood in for Royalty ...
Officially known as The Arctic Star, and to be worn third along on the bar, the whole lot will now have to be sent off to be sorted because the bar isn't long enough, and is probably going to be a hazard when The Tinker tries to get through a door..
It was New Year’s Eve 1942 when we left Scapa Flow to cover Convoy JW 53.They were given those prefixes, JW for going up, RA for coming home. HMS King George V together with Howe, Sheffield and Berwick and the aircraft carrier Victorious slipped out Scapa Flow and headed north. Our job was to get between the convoy and the Norwegian coast as it was thought that the Tirpitz was preparing to put to sea. We would cover the convoy up as far as Kola inlet and then patrol around Jan Mayan island on the edge of the pack ice to await the RA convoy going home.
The moment we left Scapa Flow we knew we were in for a good hiding; the weather was atrocious, but go we must. The further north we went the worse the weather got until we were in a full-force hurricane with winds off the Beaufort scale. I have never seen waves of the like since; looking from the bridge of King George V they were level with our eyes, and when you imagine that every wave of forty to fifty feet has a trough of a similar depth there were many times when, seeing a wave like that coming towards the bows, we could be forgiven for thinking that she would never make this one. But they were sturdy ships, and make it they did, even though the damage was considerable. We lost most of our upper-deck boats and light anti-aircraft guns on the bows and the ventilation covers were torn off, which meant flooding of the mess decks to a foot deep and everyone having to live with their trousers rolled up.
HMS Sheffield had the top of ‘A’ turret ripped off like a tin of sardines; any thoughts of protecting the convoy went by the board, for no self-respecting enemy would put to sea in that weather. In all, I think it was known as the worst weather ever encountered by a Russian convoy. Our task force gave up and headed for the safety of Iceland were we had three major bases, Hval Fjord, Seydis Fjord and Akureyri Fjord, which is just above the Arctic Circle. The fjord leading to Akureyri was the most beautiful sight I have ever seen. I believe it is thirty-two miles long between enormous snow-covered mountains which dwarfed the fjord until our enormous ships looked like so many twigs floating down a stream. The houses in the town itself all had different coloured roofs, making a glorious patchwork. I have always wanted to go back as we weren’t really welcome then; after all we were an occupy- force in a way, deciding to set up bases before the Germans did. Two memories of Russian convoys stay in my mind. One is the constant ice and cold. Nowhere could you get warm. The other is that, if when eating a meal you were up against the ship’s side, you could feel the sea thumping against it and hear it swishing past, and you had the ever present thought that three inches of steel was all there was between you and a torpedo or a mine at any time, not only then but at all times when at sea. It didn’t do to let the mind dwell on that too much.
It's all got a bit messy and confusing but as a veteran of the Arctic convoys the Tinker is very interested in all this which has featured in the press here and on BBC News in recent weeks...
The British Arctic convoy heroes who risked their lives to help transport crucial supplies to Russia during World War II have been told they cannot accept a medal for valour from the country.
The Russian Embassy wrote to survivors of the notoriously perilous sea campaign - who saw 3,000 of their comrades killed - to inform them it intended to award them with the Medal of Ushakov as a symbol of the country's gratitude.
But the Foreign Office has blocked the Russian's government's plans to honour Britain's Arctic heroes, because it said it would break rules surrounding the acceptance of medals.
Russia has already awarded the Ushakov medal to veterans from Australia, Canada and the U.S. for their role in the Arctic convoys, which ferried vital supplies and munitions to the Soviet Union to help fight off the advance of Hitler between 1941 and 1945....
The Foreign Office said permission to accept a foreign award could not be given if a UK award had been given for the same services, and pointed out that the Arctic convoy veterans were eligible for the World War II Atlantic Star.
A spokesman for the veterans, Commander Grenfell, has previously dismissed suggestions that the Atlantic Star - created in recognition of a separate Naval campaign and extended to include those who served on the convoys - was adequate recognition for survivors of the terrifying trips as he continued to press for a specific Arctic medal.
A statement from the Foreign Office said: 'The rules on the acceptance of foreign awards state that for permission to be given for an award to be accepted, there has to have been specific service to the country concerned and that that service should have taken place within the previous five years.
‘Additionally, permission cannot be granted if they have received, or are expected to receive, a UK award for the same services.'
The Russian Embassy said the Foreign Office decision was a matter of 'deep regret', and added it hoped the British government would disregard the 'bureaucratic formality' and change its position.
Last year Commander Grenfell told of the sense of betrayal among Britain's Arctic convoy survivors over David Cameron's failure to introduce a specific Arctic medal.
While in opposition the Conservative pledged to recognise the veterans with a dedicated commemorative medal if elected.
But after becoming prime minister Mr Cameron pointed to the extension of the Atlantic Star Medal to those who served in the Arctic as a mark of the nation's gratitude.
But campaigners argue that 95 per cent of the 66,500 men who served in the Arctic Convoys had already earned the Atlantic Star before being conscripted on to the dreaded ‘Russian Run’.
Commander Grenfell said that most Arctic sailors had been drafted from the Home Fleet and so would have been eligible for the Atlantic Star regardless.
Like I said all a bit confusing but sad for the last remaining veterans of which the Tinker, at 87, is one of the youngest. But anyway the Tinker had applied before all the hoo hah and when something Russian arrived for him a few weeks ago he was delighted with it.... It is the Medal of Ushakov and now we fully expect the Tinker to be taken off to the tower for having it in his possession. He is very grateful for the award, because it was indeed jolly nippy up there and pretty dangerous too....here are his thoughts...
In every area of conflict during WWII, men who participated were awarded
a Campaign Medal, that is all except one, the Arctic Convoy campaign. The
Russian Government have indeed granted Russian medals it is true, and recently
they have asked all living veterans of the Arctic Convoys, and there won’t be
very many now, to apply to the Russian Embassy for the Order of Ushakov to be
awarded by a grateful country. I
therefore applied and after a considerable time, received a Russian
commemorative medal as a keepsake but which cannot be worn, together with a
letter apologising for the fact that the British Government would not give
permission for the award to be made.
Personally, my nose was not put out of
joint, we had our medals, but what of the memory of 30,000 Merchant Navy men
who died under those bitter icy conditions in a bitter campaign, all of whom were
They deserved more than that.
The Tinker's account of the Arctic Convoys will be on here tomorrow, and he may or may not be marching in the town's Remembrance Day parade, but he takes great pride in his medals... ... and his highly symbolic off-white Artic convoy beret.. off-white to signify the colour of blood on snow.
It is excusable I suppose, to the generation of today, that October 14th. 1939 means very little, but to over 1000 men aboard HMS Royal Oak, a battleship at anchor in St. Margarets Bay in the Naval anchorage of Scapa Flow in the Orkney islands, it meant a great deal. 833 of those men died that night when German Captain Gunther Prien in U47 fired three torpedoes, within thirteen minutes the ship rolled over and sank.
It is now a war grave for those 833 men who still lay inside the upside down wreck fifteen feet below the waterline in a hundred feet of water and there is a commemorative memorial in St Magnus Cathedral in Kirkwall.
I arrived on the scene just ten weeks later in December, 1939 to join HMS Iron Duke in Scapa Flow, which incidently had been hit by a German bomb during an air raid three days after the sinking on 17th. October, 1939. I was a fourteen-year old Royal Marine Boy Bugler and though I don’t have any memories of HMS Royal Oak's sinking I did know the two boy Buglers who went down with the ship , Harry Mountford and Aubrey Priestley both only fifteen years old.
Every year, a ceremony is held over the wreck site on October 14th to commemorate the 833 men. A new Royal Navy Ensign is taken down and placed on the wreck by two divers and numerous wreaths are laid by the marker buoy. I was asked by the Royal Navy Association of Kirkwall if I would like to lay their wreath this year, but it later turned out that other arrangements had already been made, but I am deeply honoured to have been asked to do the ceremony next year (2013). I do however have a very good picture of Mountford and Priestley which I have sent to my contact in Scapa Flow, Kinlay Francis, who has agreed to enclose the picture in a lead sealed frame engraved with their names and the words from Laurance Binyon’s poem “ We shall remember them” which the divers will lay on the wreck for me during today's ceremony.
October 14th. will always be a date I shall remember.
And of course I will remember it now too.
We met Kinlay Francis who runs Orkney Uncovered whilst we were in Orkney this year, his family owned the holiday cottage that we rented, the one with the gorgeous views that we couldn't stop staring at...
and I hope Kinlay won't mind me using an extract here from an email that he sent to the Tinker this week. It reveals the care and attention to detail that he had paid to the Tinker's request and for which we are very grateful indeed...
I thought I would give you an update about October 14th. The HMS Royal Oak memorial will start at 10:00am at Scapa Pier... we will be going straight out to the Oak site to lay the wreaths and your Plaque container and then back to the Kirkwall Royal British Legion afterwards.
As for my role: I will be laying two linked Poppy Cross wreaths for you. One for Harry and one for Aubrey. I have also hand crafted a lead memorial plate (more like a medium envelope) which I have enclosed the picture of H & A inside and a well wrapped piece of clear plastic, which is watertight and taped. I have then folded over the lead sections and sealed them down with waterproof silicone before hammering the sides to make it completely watertight. I wrote below the boys picture: To my friends Harry and Aubrey, we will remember you. Forever, Len Chester. On the actual plaque I have inscribed your exact instructions:
There is another little place I want to whisk you to on our virtual visit to Orkney because, as everyone says, if you go to Orkney you absolutely must see the Italian Chapel so we did. In fact the first time we stopped by (on our way to Hoxa Tapestry) we were followed in by a coachload of tourists...I know we were tourists too, I'm not knocking them, but we knew it would be too crowded to see anything, so we returned later in the day... only to find they were about to start a service so it was still rather a quick look.
The chapel is a relic of Camp 60 which was home to several hundred Italian prisoners during the Second World War, captured during the Italian campaign and sent to Orkney to help construct the Churchill Barriers. The Barriers were fascinating too, and not only for the way they sought to create an attack proof defence of Scapa Flow after the sinking of the Royal Oak. On 14 October 1939, Royal Oak was anchored at Scapa Flow when she was torpedoed by a maverick German submarine. Of Royal Oak's complement of 1,234 men and boys, 833 were killed that night or died later of their wounds.
We drove alongside Scapa Flow, and on the morning of the Queen's Diamond Jubilee. We had the service on the radio and as I stopped to take this picture the Diamond children's choir were singing that beautiful anthem, and the words 'I am here...I am with you...' floated out of the car. It is hard to imagine that wartime carnage at such a time of national pride and celebration, and taking place in waters that looked so utterly benign and peaceful ... Whilst it is also hard to imagine what such exposure to war must have felt like for the Orcadians, who could surely have expected to be so far-removed and remote from it all but for the fact their islands possess 120 square miles of the most sheltered and natural anchorages in the world, large enough for several naval fleets. War artist Eric Ravilious knew it well too...
Leaving Scapa Flow ~ Eric Ravilious
We paid homage at the Royal Oak memorial in St Magnus Cathedral while we were there. Never forgotten...
The Tinker, as that fourteen-year old boy bugler, was sent to the battleships on Scapa Flow just a few months after the sinking of the Royal Oak, which is now a designated war grave. The Churchill barriers are also interesting for the way they subtly changed the face of the islands, several of them were bridged by the barriers, and thus in road rather than boat contact with each other for the first time.
The Italian prisoners felt the lack of a chapel very keenly, as did the War Office Inspector of P.O.W. Camps who urged the provision of one, and in 1943 two Nissen huts were made available, placed end to end and joined together to create the framework. As luck would have it one of the prisoners was the artist Domenico Chiocchetti who set to and proceeded to paint the frescos on the inside. This picture of Chiocchetti's return to do some restoration work in 1960 feels highly symbolic of the mutual respect accorded by both sides despite any wartime enmity and, as the guide books suggests 'the way that faith can flourish in adversity.' The chapel really is a beautiful little treasure now lovingly preserved, a real and unexpected jewel. Quite breathtaking when you step inside and then marvel at how so much was created by so few, and with minimal resources beyond faith and dedication and a lot of talent.
Everything you see...every brick and stone effect is painted onto a plasterboard surface. and all lovingly preserved, hallowed and respected as part of Orkney's historic heritage as much as any Neolithic village.
Talking of which, you might like to get your jumpers on, we will be taking a bracing evening walk up to the Ring of Brodgar next, and bring along your archaeology trowel, we might have ourselves a bit of a virtual dig.
Each Year, on Remembrance Sunday, I usually publish one of the Tinker's (father of dgr) stories from his little wartime memoir Bugle Boy, and so in keeping with tradition, here's another one. For those who may not have met one of these before, and with apologies to everyone who already knows this... The Tinker, who I'm sure won't mind me saying is now a very sprightly eighty six, joined the Royal Marines in May 1939 at the age of fourteeen. He was sent off to the battleships at Scapa Flow in December of that year once he had mastered 150 bugle calls, the drum and the flute, thus becoming one of the very youngest to see active service during World War Two.... and he's that little tiddler on the left on the cover.
As I have said, we were paid 1s a day. But out of this grand sum 1s 9d was deducted and placed into an account to be paid when you attained the age of eighteen, so in fact we only drew 5s 3d (26p) a week, out of which we had to buy all our everyday requirements – soap, toothpaste, Bluebell, boot polish and so on. Yet somehow we always seemed to finish with enough for pictures on a Saturday afternoon and half a pound of angel cake to take back for a feast in the evening – we were always hungry. There were alternative ways of getting things like forbidden ‘fags’, you could always beg; but our skills were in scrounging, we became past masters at this as we became streetwise. The Artful Dodger would have lost the coat off his back within ten minutes in our room. I have mentioned before how we would wait outside the beer canteen (we weren’t allowed in of course), and with a penny in hand and a doleful face we would approach some Marine and say ‘Sell us a fag for a penny’. In barracks Royal Marines came under the Army Act, but once on board ship we came under the Admiralty and Admiralty Fleet Orders, so we boys were paid the same as Royal Navy boys, 6s (30p) a fortnight; the remainder went into your ‘account’. But even then we managed to exist and smoked like chimneys with tobacco costing 1s 9d a pound and we could always sell any excess. Many boys took up skills like haircutting, snobbing boots or tailoring, talents that had no recognized trade in the Services; but the boy who was the only one on a ship who could cut hair was maybe on his way to being a millionaire next year. My other bugler, Curly Regan, and I had a ‘dhobi’ firm and as we lived in with the band on HMS King George V we had a constant demand for clean laundry, starched shorts and shirts every day. How we managed this when we had no electric irons remains our secret, but it was a lovely little earner! When we eventually ‘passed out’ as competent buglers, drummers and flautists our pay rose to 8s 9d (45p) a week, as I have said, and we could really lord it up then. My eighteenth birthday, my rainy day, did come – it must have done – although I can’t remember it. It would have been on 5 April 1943 whilst I was in the Mediterranean and probably went on wine, women, and song. Why leave it to earn interest; there were men out there trying to kill us and they were very good at it too.
Ah yes the trains. The Tinker likens this to painting with wool.
and this one of the Ribblehead viaduct which was my mum's favourite sight as she travelled on the Settle to Carlisle railway, from Liverpool to the Yorkshire Dales, for childhood holidays at a little place called Countersett Hall near Askrigg. The Tinker took my mum back there to visit in the year before she died, it was a place that brought back special and very happy memories for her of a past that had remained so vivid, whilst the near present had sadly started to fade. I love this picture and am always reminded of my mum telling us how she'd count the arches with great excitement and know she was getting nearer. Then we must move onto the Ottoman empire because the Tinker did two lids for ottomans and one footstool for me (currently beneath my desk with my feet and a cat curled up on it) in this design which we all fell in love with I think you've all seen this and the next one several times over but I could and do look at them all day so I'll add them here for completeness. The Elizabeth Bradley done in a single very large piece and another piece also very large and here is the Tinker with the coveted village show Blatchford Cup for it, which he won a couple of years ago. The spin offs from all these are cushions various, smaller versions of the designs because I always love them so much and to use up the wool. Coming next... all our entries for today's show which have to be staged by 12 o'clock so I've timed the post for then, plus a glimpse of the Tinker's new work in progress, because I had noticed some idleness which will never do for an 86 year old as talented as this, as I'm sure you will agree.
Operation Heartbreak had sat unread on my shelves since it was first published by Persephone Books in 2004, but I've been browsing the books again with new eyes for this year's November reading and several have been a perfect fit. This one has the lovely blue endpapers taken from a Jacqmar printed rayon entitled 'Happy Landings' and I know those little decorative flourishes at the top of each page are carefully chosen too... for Operation Heartbreak these like little sets of wings. It was interesting to walk around the Imperial War Museum and spot those little swatches of Persephone endpapers in the exhibitions, I instantly recognised 'London Wall' from Vere Hodgson's Few Egg and No Oranges. Duff Cooper recounts the life of Captain Willie Maryngton, an orphan with an income, a career army officer who is utterly desperate to go to war. Bitterly disappointed to have missed out on active service in the First World War by a matter of days, Willie is even more distraught and disillusioned to find he is too old to serve in the Second World War and must stay at home and train the troops. Having been a cavalry man and subject to the all-consuming hobby of hippolatry (it's in the book, honestly) the changing face of warfare and increasing mechanisation leave Willie, a man without a war horse, stuck in the old groove. But Willie nurses a constant sense of unbelonging and remains emotionally 'stuck' too, his parentless background has done little for his emotional maturity despite the presence of a family who have taken him under their wing, his relationships with women are doomed, often a complete disaster. His life takes on a routine of monotony and dullness, then add in the unrequited craving for front line action and it all breeds in him a streak of bitter regret and suspicion of those around him. Everyone else is joining in the 'party' and somehow Willie is always on the outside looking in. It slowly becomes clear that Willie is going to play a major role in the war and gradually Duff Cooper builds towards the ending that you know is coming if you are aware of the real wartime events on which the book is based. It is a book charged with increasing emotion and the final pages just turn those screws steadily as they quietly increase the poignancy of Willie's life. I'm thinking these facts are well known to many but if not, and you think this might spoil your enjoyment of Operation Heartbreak, stop reading here ** and scroll down to ***
** Operation Mincemeat, the actual British Intelligence Operation to deceive Hitler into thinking the allied invasion of Sicily would take place elsewhere, so the plan was for the body of Major Martin RM to wash up on a strategically chosen Spanish beach carrying secret papers. Spanish intelligence handed the papers to German intelligence before returning them supposedly unopened to Britain. It was only the misaligned refolding of the papers that gave any hint that the ruse might have worked and in fact it did. Hitler continued to expect an invasion via Greece and Sardinia weeks after the invasion of Sicily had begun.
Max Arthur's afterword offers a context to the events recounted in the book but more about Duff Cooper and the film of the real events on which the book is based tomorrow. I'll bet some you of you watched The Man Who Never Was, curled up on the floor on a dreary winter's Sunday afternoon as I did.
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.
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.
Catching up on the Bugle Boy prize draw, congratulations to the winner, Becky. Anyone else who may have read the Tinker's book will know about Harold 'Podge' Overbury who joined the Royal Marines at the same time back in 1939. I think Podge is easy to spot in this picture and he and the Tinker remain friends to this day. It has to be said, they are mischief when they get together so as you can see I had a firm grip on them both as they lined up, medals-galore for Sunday's Remembrance Day parade.Then I couldn't stop myself welling up as they led off the Royal Marine contingent with another veteran, Tom in the middle. My mum would have loved moments like this.
For today and to end this year's Remembrance Read, an extract from Bugle Boy by Len Chester (aka The Tinker and father of dgr in case you have missed that bit )Essential background to this story is that Hodge eventually became known throughout the corps as Podge and I won't be the one to say it was because his mum, Mrs Overbury was in charge of the barrack's cookhouse. Podge features in the film of The Cockleshell Heroes, he's the one barking out the orders on the parade ground, something for which he became legendary as a Regimental Sergeant Major and drill instructor at Lympstone Commando training centre.
Podge’s Mum To illustrate the remark I made that Wren Overbury was not to be trifled with, I will relate the tale of the complaint. It must have been sometime in 1942 when it happened as I had just returned to barracks after two years on my first ship and the new mess hall had been built. We had liver and onions for breakfast, ‘baby’s head and guardrails’ as it was known in the vernacular. The liver was like the soles of our boots and the onions looked like bootlaces, most unappetizing. In comes the Officer of the day, as was his duty at every meal, being concerned about our wellbeing. ‘Any complaints?’ he asks, holding his nose twixt finger and thumb. ‘Yes’, says Hodge. Well you may have seen a cartoon where the Officer is aghast and the Corporal swells with indignation; this is where it originated. ‘Taste this liver and onions sir, we can’t eat it and we are told we must have a good breakfast before going on parade. ‘Don’t talk to the Officer like that, son’, says the Corporal. Mind you, the Officer had to agree that it was pretty gruesome and he was due for his own breakfast shortly. ‘Fetch this man another breakfast.’ Up comes a plate with egg, bacon and fried bread. ‘Do you withdraw your complaint?’ ‘Yes sir’, says Hodge. On the way to the washing-up space, in a corridor, he is suddenly grabbed by a huge Sergeant in cook’s whites and literally lifted off the floor by his neck. ‘Are you the little …… who just made the complaint?’ ‘Yes Sergeant’, squeaks Hodge. ‘Do you realize that it was my breakfast that you have just eaten?’ ‘No,’ says Hodge, ‘and if you don’t put me down I shall report you.’ ‘Who the hell do you think you are?’ says Sergeant. ‘I’m Po/x3834 Boy Bugler Harold Overbury.’ At this the Sergeant turns a paler shade of pale. ‘Is Mrs Overbury your mum?’ he asks in a squeaky voice. ‘Yes’, says Hodge. ‘God, you won’t tell her will you?’ he says, and gently lowers Hodge to the ground, straightening his tunic and dusting him down. As far as I can remember, Hodge never had reason to complain henceforth – that was the kind of fear Hodge’s mum could instil. Bombs, bullets, even a draft to a ship were not equal to the wrath of Mrs Overbury protecting her young.
As well as a lovely stack of the Profile Books, Wonders of the World series, this week has also seen the arrival of two lovely little packages from Hesperus Press and coincidentally from these different publishers two books about the Great War that speak to each other. Perhaps not such a coincidence given that Armistice Day approaches and that always offers a good opportunity for some memorable wartime reading, a theme I usually seem to honour in early November without really realising so. I wonder if as I get older the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month becomes more poignant and more deeply embedded in my mind, because somehow I do find it all more and more moving year on year. Watching the Tinker out on parade probably adds to the emotion too.
This time last year saw the launch of the Tinker's (father of dgr) book. Bugle Boy published by Long Barn Books has taken him all over the place including guest of honour at the Royal Marines School of Music and contact from countless people around the world who have read the book, including recently a special visit from a Norwegian man researching the saga of the funeral and more specifically the men being buried. With the author's permission (!) I'll post that story 'Funerals' here on Remembrance Sunday this year. The Wonders of the World have me by the reading throat at the moment and I'm soaking up so much that I should have known but didn't, or thought I knew but obviously didn't either. St Pancras Station is waiting patiently but The Memorial to the Missing of the Somme by Gavin Stamp has won the day. I started and was quickly fifty pages in. This series is just so eminently readable and each book full of new perceptions, this single observation alone has left me stunned,
'if all the men of the British Empire who were killed between 1914 and 1918 were to have marched together in rows of four to the Cenotaph, when the front of the column arrived in Whitehall its tail would still be at Durham.'
For anyone who hasn't marched that recently, it's a distance of 230 miles.The facts still have the power to shock and so they should. Likewise The Forbidden Zone : A Nurse's Impression of the First World War by Mary Borden, one of the little Hesperus packages, is proving to be a flawless gem of a book, a beautifully written account of horrific tragedy. Chicago-born Mary Borden ran a field hospital just behind the front lines of the Somme and has that gift for conveying what she must in the most evocative yet spare style,
'Mud: and a thin rain coming down to make more mud. Mud: with scraps of iron lying in it and the straggling fragment of a nation, lolling, hanging about in the mud on the edge of disaster...No there's no frontier, just a bleeding edge, trenches. That's where the enemy took his last bite, fastened his iron teeth, and stuffed to bursting, stopped devouring Belgium, left this strip, these useless fields, these crumpled dwellings.'
Voices breathing fresh reality into seemingly known subjects, brilliantly moving, the non-fiction quest continues and in the run-up to Remembrance Day let's have a prize draw because we haven't had one in ages. Names in comments (we'll post worldwide) for a prize draw signed copy of Bugle Boy by that inestimable and very lovely 83 year-old dad of mine, Len Chester.
We merged the two lists and have just had the prize draw and all I can say is goodness, aren't some people are having the luck of the Irish here:-) But we stick firmly to first names chosen because rules is rules.
The Tinker sits with pen poised and the winners of the five signed copies of Bugle Boy have already been e mailed for their addresses. Thank you very much to everyone who entered.
...the Tinker (father of dgr) who is a whole eighty-three years young today. I was in real trouble a few weeks ago, believe me. 'So what's a Jane Austen sequel got that my book hasn't then?' 'Why aren't five copies of my book being given away in a prize draw?' So today, to redress the balance, I have five signed copies of Bugle Boy by Len Chester to give away as a birthday treat for you all. That little memoir with a great big heart, the fourteen-year old little Tinker, knee-high to a grasshopper and going off to war in 1939. We must also send good wishes to his publisher Susan Hill for the day's other big party celebration as The Battle for Gullywith is launched. My thoughts on the book here and a great interview with Susan here . The Tinker loved it too. Rocky is on stand-by to make the Bugle Boy prize draw in a few days time, so names in comments as usual, and here's the Tinker's favourite extract just to keep him happy.
The first time Mum and Dad said they would come down to Eastney to see me filled me with excitement. I knew they would feed me and make me financially sound for a short while and, of course, I could show off in my new uniform. I suppose it was a month after I had arrived but it had taken at least three weeks to assemble all my kit. The accoutrements were no problem but the uniform had to be specially made, after all at 4’ 8” I
was not exactly off the peg, besides which we had to be trained in how to comport ourselves when out of barracks. In those days, when a Royal Marine went out he wore white cotton gloves and carried a silver-headed cane, something I was sorry to see discontinued, it made you feel a little
special; but there was a drill to it all that had to be learnt
before you were allowed out. It was a Sunday, as I remember, and they would meet me at the barrack gate at 2 p.m.
by which time I had cleaned my buttons, boned my boots to the best possible shine for a new pair and starched my cap cover. We never had white-top caps then, just blue caps, but we donned cap covers between 1 May
and they had to be starched. A word about my boots; they too had to be made, by the cobblers in the barracks, from greased cow hide that took weeks and weeks of boning before getting the required polish. They were size six and each boot had 116 hobnails, a heel plate and a large toe plate; when I first put them on I felt like a deep-sea diver. Two o’clock came eventually, I left it for a few minutes to make sure they would be there to see me march up to the Sergeant on the gate, and there they were, in earnest conversation with the Sergeant. Drawing myself up to my full height, I halted in front of the Sergeant. ‘Po/x 3943 Boy Bugler L.
Chester, permission to leave barracks Sergeant.’ My father was bursting with pride and my mother had tears in her eyes; I was terrified. Whilst I stood there
with my proud parents watching, he did a 360-degree
inspection of me, including a bird’s eye view of my cap cover, because I’m sure he was 7’ 6”
tall. ‘You have dust in the welts of your boots, go back and clean them properly.’ My father’s pride at that moment knew no bounds, my mother shed some more tears and I was completely humiliated. I have said that after three weeks we were completely streetwise, we had ways and means for all
situations. For this one I went back to my barrack room, sat on the bed for ten minutes then walked back again. ‘Why didn’t you clean them like that the first time, laddie?’ In those halcyon pre-World War Two days, I’m sure that was the way of the Royal Marines, more so with the recruits: they endeavoured to break your spirit and then proceeded to build you up to what they wanted – sheer blind obedience. It worked, unless you were as cunning as us boys who had nothing to break down in the first place.
I thought I'd give you an update on The Tinker's (father of dgr) progress since becoming an internationally acclaimed author on the publication of his little memoir Bugle Boy, life as a fourteen year old in the Royal Marines at the outbreak of World War Two, with it's lovely foreword from The Duke of Edinburgh.That's The Tinker on the cover, the little one on the left of these three. Never one to sit idly thumb-twiddling he's been quite busy on other projects through the winter. As many of you may recall he does have a huge talent for tapestry work and was asked to produce a church kneeler in memory of a deceased comrade which he has been working on with a great precision and the tiniest of stitches in recent months. It's now completed and is indeed a beautiful memorial to a good friend, almost too good for knees and he's also got through stacks of audio books while he's been stitching. Bugle Boy seems to have been selling well and The Tinker himself is never without a copy upon his person for anyone who enquires where they may purchase one. The lady behind the chemist's counter presented hers with a flourish for him to sign the other day. Vulgar though it may be deemed to discuss money, he was delighted with his first ever royalty payment at the age of nearly eighty-four, but that aside he has received some wonderfully kind and very flattering communications from all manner of people in high places. Being the humble chap that he genuinely is, this has all been quite a surprise for him and he is treasuring all the kind words. Coming up, two exciting little ventures. Anyone who has read the book may recall the story in which he recounts his first and only charge of mutiny at the age of fourteen for refusing to clean the ship's bell. The re-cleaning was ordered by the Captain five minutes after poor little Tinker had just polished it to within an inch of its life whilst the ship was anchored in the middle of a very murky misty Scapa Flow. The Tinker was already smartly dressed in his best uniform for Sunday service on board HMS Iron Duke ready to blow all his bugle calls. Punishment was either a public flogging (yes,seriously) or loss of pay and extra duties. He's now thinking he should have opted for the flogging and he could probably now be claiming some compensation.
Well to our complete surprise that very same bell is still in existence.The ship was eventually sent for scrap but the bell is lovingly preserved in Winchester Cathedral and he has been invited back to give it a bit of a spit and a polish in fond memory of that day. Truthfully it was the source of so much grief I think he'd rather see it melted down but he's looking forward to the day very much indeed and I of course will give him instructions to go and pay homage at Jane Austen's resting place while he's there. Then he is also off to a sort of Guest of Honour Day at Eastney Barracks in Portsmouth, for a guided tour and a 'see how we do it now' presentation. Eastney of course where he pitched up for duty as a wee nipper back in May 1939 and where he carried out his first order after the declaration of war on Sunday September 3rd 1939. If you've read the book you'll know what that was, those poor cats again. So again, many thanks to all visitors here who have bought the book, read it, written about it, written to him about it and if you haven't read it yet, well it's spreading around the libraries, will be going into Large Print and of course is still available to buy.
Let unashamed nepotism reign supreme and if you can't review your dad's book on Amazon then what's the world coming to? Not sure if such blatantly biased reviews stay put but it's there for now anyway and currently Bugle Boy isranked No.5 in the category Books > Britain & Ireland > World War II 1939-1945 > Naval Warfare > Britain which I'm sure you will all agree is a very important category of a sub-category of a sub-sub category indeed.
I think the Remembrance Day Parade is attended by more and more people every year here in Tavistock and just a shame that the roads can't be closed briefly and traffic diverted so I don't almost get killed trying to take pictures. This year a squad of Royal Marines came out from Plymouth and led the ranks of ex-servicemen, Brownies, Scouts, assorted Beavers and Cubs, Air Cadets et al all following the Town Band along the main road. The Tinker in his white beret is usually placed at the rear of the local Royal Marines contingent because the ex-Commandoes in their green berets like to take the lead, but this year he was plucked from obscurity along with the only other WW II veteran, Tom, and promoted to the front row of the parade squad. They set off at a fair old left-right-left-right lick after the Regimental Sergeant Major had informed his men they looked like a herd of feral cats.Take at look at these old boys, they know how to do it...and they did.
I'm sticking with the theme for today of all days and then I think we'll let Bugle Boy have a little rest after all this activity.
It's been a truly memorable week and probably more to come but I have a stack of books lined up to share on here and we must move on to them. Despite the trying journey home, the Tinker and I did have a great day in London with the delightful Sophie Rochester, the PR whizz who has worked very diligently with Long Barn Books on promoting the book. We quite enjoyed being met by a big car at Paddington and being whisked off across the city for media appearances. Out through Chiswick, where we waved to Curzon, and onto the Sky TV studios where Channel Five news is tucked away. Sitting in the Green Room whilst the Tinker was taken off to make-up, we had passed three lads dressed in desert gear who had done the previous interview. It transpires they were three brothers off to Iraq. The first question the Tinker was asked, live on air, was what advice would he give them. Quick off the mark he came up with the perfect answer, he wouldn't presume to give them any advice, they're fighting a very different war and they've been trained to do it, they're highly skilled and they'll do a great job. It all went extremely well, he was as cool as an arctic convoy and surprised people all day long as they looked for a doddery old man with a zimmer frame and in bounced this very sprightly chap.No one would believe he was eighty-two and they all found it even harder to believe that fourteen year old boys had gone to war in 1939. Many a laugh through the day at the suggestion that he must have lied about his age to join up because there is still incredulity surrounding the idea that fourteen year olds went into active war service, but when you look at the book cover he looks about ten, let alone trying to fool anyone into thinking he was sixteen. After lunch we were off to BBC Television Centre to record an interview with Radio 5 Live. More trying to spot celebs but not a single one to be seen, but then it was radio, we hadn't a clue what they look like. That interview will be broadcast this morning on 5 Live at about 10.45am in the lead up to the Silence at 11am. Then back into central London for an interview with the Daily Express Online and a welcome pot of tea.Reporter Nicola McCafferty had certainly done her homework and asked intelligent and interesting questions and the hour whizzed by. I was flagging a bit, the Tinker was firing on all cylinders and was on top form. Needless to say today we will be out at the Rembrance Day parade, pondering on all the exciting and unexpected events since the last one, but as the Tinker says, as the silence begins he can't help but recall all those fourteen year old boys, his friends, who died.
It's the weekend we've all been waiting for and the Tinker and I are on the starting blocks and ready for the off to do all the publicity for Bugle Boy. Long Barn Books have lined up plenty of interviews for him and tomorrow we head off very early for a long day in London where a car will meet us at Paddington at 10am and whisk us all over the metropolis. Appearances as follows Tonight finally we are assured is the piece on Westcountry News at 6pm...perhaps. Tomorrow we think the interview with Channel 5 News will be broadcast live at 11.30am. Then we get lunch. We then whizz off to Broadcasting House where he will pre-record an interview with Rachel Burden to be broadcast on BBC Radio Five Live on Sunday at about 10.45am. Then off to do an online interview for Express Online. Then we get tea and cakes. Then we hop on the train home. On Sunday the Tinker, weather permitting, will be out marching with fellow veterans at the local Remembrance Day Parade here in Tavistock and you'll spot him a mile off because he's the only one in a white beret, and now everyone who has read the book knows why.I'm going to try and film this and upload onto here, don't hold your breath. At this point I have to say we are all bursting with pride for him. I will be alongside over the weekend, straightening tie, beret and medals just as my mum would have done (she would have LOVED this) and am thrilled for him to finally, after 68 years, be enjoying a very unexpected but very well-deserved moment in the spotlight. He's a very special dad that's for sure.
Prize sighting and thanks to P.K.Munroe, of Thursday Night Letters fame, for this one in Foyle's, Charing Cross Road. Prepared to risk danger by asking for the book in a loud voice, and to commit acts of derring do by realigning stock face out, Agent P.K. was mildly disappointed to find none of these subversive strategies were required. The book was uncamouflaged and plainly there for all to see. It had completely evaded me that the surname Chester, when filed alphabetically under World War Two, places us shoulder to shoulder with the great man himself. Meanwhile we settle down to watch Westcountry News for the third night running in the hope that we haven't been displaced tonight by ducks walking through the centre of a village, or a biodynamic farm run on the moon and manure, which is what happened last night.
For those feeling deprived at lack of Bugle Boy visuals this evening feast your eyes on this again just to keep going. Now I can't for the life of me remember whether I have already put it on here? Many thanks again anyway to Good Thief Chris Ewan and Ms Good Thief for this wonderful trailer for the book.
Have I mentioned before how much I love Waterstone's? I'm sure all my curmudgeonly bad
feeling over the redesign in the Plymouth shop long forgotten and here
it is again, this time in the branch "opposite Selfridges" in London.
Realizing that one must reward the troops at the front line to keep up
morale I've promoted Curzon to Field Marshall so the London reconnaissance
sorties will continue.There is a vacancy for a Colonel in Colchester which I'm hoping to fill very soon.
The Tinker has done his first ever signing mission today at a Macmillan
Coffee morning courtesy of my good friend who blogs here.We counted all
the copies out and on this occasion happily didn't count them back in. All off to new homes and, in amongst all the names assigned, either five chaps called Mike are getting a copy or there's been a bit of a mix up and Mike will have a copy for every room.Fortunately we didn't win the fluffy rabbit in the raffle, in fact I won a signed copy of Voyage by Adele Geras which I was delighted with. We bought all sorts at the various stalls and came away with enough home-made cakes to keep us
going for the week but left the knitted elephant behind.
There's been a first sighting and here's the evidence gathered by loyal dgr reader Margaret in Waterstone's store, Tenterden in Kent. Beautifully placed next to the illustrious Roy Hattersley and is that General Someone nearby too? All being overseen by Decca, the letters of Jessica Mitford. That'll do nicely.
I know it's Cliff Richard's birthday today but I'm sorry there are far more important things going on here. It's happening any day now and things are quietly starting to build up.Amazing that this all began with a story on here, "The Day War Broke Out" on September 3rd last year. We've just spent a pleasurable morning at the kitchen table helping the Tinker sign 300 copies of Bugle Boy and suddenly we see the book in quantity for the first time.We had the coffee and doughnuts first then with all hands washed and surfaces cleared of jam and sugar we set to work. We went for the production line approach, unpacked, stacked, opened at right page, passed across, signed, passed back, repacked and with a little break inbetween each box we were done in an hour. I was the passer-acrosser. Various TV and radio appearances are shaping up for the Tinker which I'll keep you all in touch with, so there is much planning in progress and we are on a sort of stand-by for all eventualities. I've read the book again countless times and it still leaves a lump in my throat so we are looking forward to others having a chance to see it.Like all first time authors the Tinker is a little nervous about the well-being of his baby, this is a part of his life that even his family hardly knew about let alone the rest of the world and suddenly it will all be for public consumption.
All news of bookshop sightings in the coming weeks gratefully received and a picture of books on shelves in shops would just have us all jumping up and down with excitement.I know you'd feel stupid taking pictures in the middle of a bookshop but trust me, the first picture is the worst and after that you couldn't care less, look at me on here. We'll be marching off on a few sighting missions of our own soon too.
Well apropos of nothing the Red Arrows have just flown over our house.This often happens and we think they probably take off from RAF Somewhere in the South West and say, OK, lock in on that white house in the Tamar Valley and then peel off left/right etc. But it seems like a good moment to share an auspicious occurrence of which we seem to be having our fair share this week. You'll all be getting fed up with this family and their books but forget mine, a copy of Bugle Boy is in the Tinker's possession and we are all mightily proud of him and it. He keeps a pair of white gloves to hand for anyone who might wish to stroke it and one or two select visitors are allowed to open it but not read it, however I did persuade him to get it out for a location photo shoot today.
In the light of the build up to the publication of the Tinker's book, Bugle Boy(sorry I have to keep saying it) in October, we were quite excited to read this piece by James Delingpole in today's Telegraph and to discover that the Second World War has become the hottest thing in publishing (after Gods Behaving Badly of course) I've e mailed the link to the Tinker but I bet he's watching World War III on the cricket pitch...and groaning. The publishing news however is promising, James Delingpole suggests that
"Books about the Second World War, fiction and non-fiction, look set to be one of the hottest phenomena of the next decade"
We especially liked this bit,
"We're all much more
conscious than we used to be of just how precious our surviving Second
World War veterans are."There was a time, not
so long ago, when grandpa's war stories were a bit of a joke. Now
grandpa's war stories - if he's still around to tell them - are amazing!" Anyone who fought in the Second World
War will now be at least in his eighties, meaning there isn't a lot of
time left for any of us to hear witness accounts of what it was really
Well, he's always been a treasure and the stories were never a joke because I hardly knew any of it until he wrote it all down, so thank goodness we tied him to his computer and have whipped a book out of him in the last year.
It was quite a dash after work but we made it over to Exmouth one evening this week to watch the Tinker escort the colours at the annual Royal Marines Beating the Retreat on the sea front.We even squeezed in fish (sausage for me, hate fish) and chips beforehand because how can you go the seaside and not? If like me you didn't really know what Beating the Retreat meant then look no further, all is explained here Traditionally played at sunset to recall troops from the battlefield at the end of a day's hostilities and still a wonderful bit of ceremonial that never fails to send shivers down my spine.
The Royal Marines Band from nearby Lympstone on top form and looking top notch in full regalia and the Tinker of course looking resplendent in medals and white beret.
I managed a close-up of his chest, the jacket has had to be reinforced to cope with that lot. Lots of good marching music, Corps of Drums precision stuff and then that moment right at the end when the buglers step forward and play Sunset.
All very shivery and tear-jerking as the sun set over a very wintery looking Exe Estuary.
I've probably shot myself in the foot this week after highlighting an error in a book because we've been doing proof reading of our own here and if anyone mentions proof-reading to me any more I really might have a fit of the vapours. I must bring you up to date on happenings though because this is the bit of the finished book the likes of us don't usually witness.I always thought the labour-intensive process of giving birth to a book was the writing of it, well don't believe a word of it, it's the proof reading. Bugle Boy by Len Chester (aka the Tinker and father of dgr all her life) and to be published by Long Barn Books in October is all going along very nicely.Everyone is working very hard on it. Ages ago photos and all sorts of precious documents were entrusted to the Royal Mail and off to Long Barn via Hilary at the Village post office, she loves it all.Utter the words, "this is very important/ precious/ must not get lost" and it gets her full attention, you sense she'd almost like to walk it there herself. Then the edited manuscript with the photos in place came back and we had the first chance to read it in book-ish form as a pdf file complete with the Duke of Edinburgh's foreword which is something very special indeed and now we've proof read it all. This involved four of us this end, the Tinker, Bookhound, Offspringette and moi reading it hundreds of times, over and over again and then sitting around the kitchen table on a wet Thursday afternoon for yet another of those sessions that will be a long-cherished memory.
The Tinker arrived with cakes and so fortified with a pot of tea we started. "That should be an apostrophe"... "why?"... "because it should"... "did you mean to say that?"... "yes"... "is that really how you spell that?"... "yes" "P86, line 8, word missing...where's it gone?"
Offspringette and her million words per minute typing skills creating a table of corrections. There were some very funny moments as we had the primary historical source in our midst and not least a very arduous working out of an old £sd sum of money that taxed us heatedly to our limits.This times that times that divided by 240, then with 75 left over we took an age to make that into 6s3d.How on earth did we used to calculate that money? Glimpses of dust jacket ideas became definitive designs and that means it's really definitely happening and it will be in shops and it will be a real book.The Tinker fancies a life-sized picture of himself in the bookshop in town, we've said he might as well just go and stand in there all day...which he probably will if he sees his very own book on the shelf. Who'd have thought it? First book at 82 years young. Only a few months to go and we're all a little bit excited and if you find any mistakes please don't tell me.
I have to say Happy 82nd Birthday to the Tinker, father of dovegreyreader, almost first-time published author, before I do anything else today.I spent a happy hour in the loft yesterday rummaging amongst the pictures and came across this delightful one of the Tinker with his own grandad.We are assuming that's the shed behind them and not his house but I can't spoil the surprise by asking.I have a feeling Grandad Chester kept pigeons and that might be very fancy avian quarters.That garden looks like his pride and joy and I reckon this must have been taken in about 1930. The Tinker is of course very special to everyone who knows him and that might be quite a lot of people soon, but here he is with a 2 week old well-packaged and bonneted me.I expect he'd just pegged those nappies out too. He will always be the one who used to deal with the sharks that I was CONVINCED were swimming under my bed at 3am for weeks after I had watched too much Armand and Michaela Denis on TV. Then half an hour later he'd be called back in because I was CERTAIN that the folds in the eiderdown were snakes. Fifteen minutes after that there were DEFINITELY tarantulas everywhere and he'd be back in to catch them all. Thanks Dad!
This is what walked into my kitchen yesterday! Now that he's going to be a famous author the Tinker (nearly 82 year old father of dgr) is trying out various incognito disguises and this one is especially for Comic Relief Red Nose Day. He thought concealing his very distinguished ears might be a good start and how thoughtful of Comic Relief to provide some along with the noses this year. Personally I think he's going to have more trouble with that very twinkly, mischievous smile.
I'm going to hand over another blog post for today to The Tinker (my Dad) who reminds me this morning that September 3rd 1939 was the day that war broke out. I've been encouraging him (well, nagging more like) to pleeeease write some of this down for our family history and so we now have a little treasure trove of these. The Tinker 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 draughted to the battleship HMS Iron Duke up in Scapa Flo. 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. I've taken Part Two of his story The Day War Broke Out Part 2 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 Hitler 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 2 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.
Team Tolstoy A year-long shared read of War & Peace through the centenary year of Count Lyev Nikolayevich Tolstoy's death, starting on his birthday, September 9th 2010.
Everyone is welcome to board the troika and read along, meeting here on the 9th of every month to chat in comments about the book.
Team Tolstoy Bookmark Don't know your Bolkonskys from your Rostovs?
An aide memoire that can be niftily printed and laminated into a double-sided bookmark.
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