It is sometimes difficult to sit here at the computer and just begin writing another blog. Sometimes I find myself drawing a blank, especially when things are quiet on the political front, and they do indeed seem to be at the moment.
However something always seems to turn up, on Saturday morning I received a phone call from a lady at my local branch of the Legion. She had just read my latest letter to the editor in the Journal Pioneer, it was relating my memories of the last day of the second world war. She wanted to book me as guest speaker for the Remembrance Day Dinner for the coming November 11th, almost nine months away. I was surprised and of course pleased to be asked, I should mention this was the same lady who ask me to run for the PC party in the recent election. I must have struck a cord with this person!!! I did agree, and now have ample time to prepare my talk. It is rather strange when I think of my first speaking engagement, The moment when I first decided to write a Memoir of my early life. The idea came about at a Legion Remembrance day dinner back in 1997, I think it was really more of a need to learn my own history. I began writing Lily & Me a year later. Since then I have used several of the stories from that book when I talk at schools etc. This morning I will share once again the Preface to the opening of my early life story “Lily & Me”
On November 11th Remembrance Day in 1997, I was a guest speaker at a banquet in the local branch of the Royal Canadian Legion. Listening to other speakers, it gradually became clear that we were remembering the Second World War and the Korean War, but almost nothing about the First World War. In fairness, we had no surviving branch members from that first terrible conflict. I thought about my father serving in France from 1916 until the end of the war. Did I not have a duty to say something about him? Sadly, knowing so little of his war service, I merely made a respectful mention to the veterans about that ‘War to end all wars.’
It was at this moment that I became painfully aware of how little I knew, not only about my father, but my whole family. It was at that moment that the first seed of an idea to write this book was planted. Now, at the dawn of the 21st Century, I set out to draft my first page.
This is a story of my early life and of the people involved in it, from the darkest days of Britain at war to the sunny days on the Isle of Wight, and to the morning I left Donegal Quay, on the Belfast docks, to join the Royal Navy
The story is how I remember the events in my early life. I have tried to make it as honest and accurate as memory allows. I have spent months researching books, digging through government archives, surfing the Internet. I asked questions, then more questions from family members all over the world. I inquired from New Zealand to Australia, Ireland to Canada and Prince Edward Island to the Isle of Wight.
Ultimately, this is my story told through my eyes, as a child, a boy, and young man. There is no intent on my part to either criticize or lay blame. That would make no sense. It is the past, nothing about it can be changed, nor would I wish anything to be changed. Those first sixteen years were far from being the happiest of my life. Now older and hopefully wiser, I find I still hold a great fondness for both Lily and Ben.
In the beginning, I shall take you back to the birth of my parents, tracing how their lives came together in Belfast, and the hardships, poverty and two World Wars they were to see during those tumultuous years. I will take you to my birth on January 15, 1939, and my mother’s death on December 26, 1939, then to my first steps into manhood on March 15, 1955. That was the day I marched off to join the Royal Navy as a Boy Seaman 2nd class.
H.M.S Ganges was a place that claimed to turn boys into men, and I would quickly learn the merits of that claim. Forty-five years later, I have to say that the Ganges claim was well founded. I consider myself a survivor of a most severe system, be it for better or worse, now vanished forever. I’m left with the memories of those terrible, harsh, cruel and sometimes happy times. I would never wish to live through them again, but they will forever remain, to the end of my days, a proud and wonderful memory.
Hope you enjoyed the reading of this article.
God Bless and keep reading
Author of "Lily & Me", "The Royal Navy & Me" and Chapter XXl Armageddon. Writer, blogger and RN Submariner, antique automobile enthusiast.