Historical Walting

When I was at high school, the Head of English was a WWII and Korean Veteran. His youngest son was my age and as young kids we used to love playing 'war' in his garden, aided by lots of military uniform and kit that his father had collected. The father was quite a severe and taciturn man, walked with a limp from an injury in Korea but had an encyclopaedic knowledge on military matters and conducted school battlefield tours to Normandy and to WWI battlefields. His injury forced him to give up his career as an infantry officer (DLI) to become a teacher. He never went in detail into his service career but had landed on D-Day and helped to relieve suffering at a concentration camp - Belsen, I think, and was injured during a Chinese advance in Korea.

Except none of this happened. I just learned through social media that he had died a few years ago in his mid 90s: his military background was a fantasy and the family only found out when making funeral arrangements. He had been a CCF officer in the 1950s, but that was it. I haven't seen his son (who was in the army in the 1980s on a SSC) since the 1990s, but tracked him down on Linked In and sent him a note of condolence.

I won't name this fantasist, in respect to his family, and didn't mention this to his son (I am sure the family are still in shock and acutely embarrassed by it). I have no idea why he played on being a veteran (I have vague recollections of him wearing medals at a School Remembrance Service - along with one or two other teachers), but his very vivid accounts of military history gave me a passion both for history and being in the Services. In contrast, my father, who served during the war, said very little, and never really got on with 'George' who lived around the corner. Perhaps dad twigged something wasn't right.

We'll never know, of course.
 
Possibly wanted to serve, but couldn’t due to a disability. There would have been a social expectation that men of his age would have served and he probably couldn’t live with the perceived shame of others knowing he didn’t.
 

Arte_et_Marte

ADC
Moderator
Book Reviewer
It happens.

Scots bloke in my local was PARA Reg, spoke with authority on various ops around the globe. Would give advice to youngsters that asked about joining. Had a large PARA capbadge tattooed between his shoulder blades and on his calf.

A couple of us suspected he was walting, because some of his other life stories were just fantasies. (He was a Hells Angel. He'd been to prison for murder, to name two.)

Decent enough old boy though and would stand his round. At the local crem following his death after major heart surgery, an RAF beret was seen on his coffin and the truth finally came out during the eulogy. He was a National Serviceman, an RAF electrictrian no less.

Nothing else remotely exciting happened during his lifetime. Poor sod.
 
It's probably not a surprise. If there are fantasists now, then there almost certainly were then. Particularly as most men of fighting age had been in service during the second great unpleasantness. If anything it would be easier as there was less scope for fact checking.
My paternal grandfather had a 'good' war....heavy AA on the south coast. (Not knocking him, you go where you are sent, and the job was vital). He was always happy to talk about it.
My mum's dad, RAF wireless op, never did. Didn't collect his medals. He died in the early 80's, but it was only after my grandmother died in 2006 that a relative popped up with an 'about time you knew the truth' story. It included grandad being at the fall of Singapore. Being listed as missing. E and E island hopping through the South Pacific. And reapping in the family kitchen in 1944.
Did any of it happen? I don't know. He or my nan never gave a hint. The cousin claims to have been there at the return.
I know of similar stories that did happen.
My point being, lots of incredible stories happened in that era. Who knows how many people embellished theirs.....or indeed played them down.
 
Wouldn't surprise me,
I've mentioned elsewhere, for example of ex-widows of, so they were led to believe, ex-FEPOWs who only found out their deceased husbands had lived a sham when they they applied for the compensation.
But at least, as you mention, something positive came out of his hype.
But, on the other hand, how reliable are the reports on social media? Is it just an absence of evidence or are there strong indications of how he spent those years, in a reserved occupation for example or excused service because of a deformed leg?
 
Possibly wanted to serve, but couldn’t due to a disability. There would have been a social expectation that men of his age would have served and he probably couldn’t live with the perceived shame of others knowing he didn’t.
I think that might very well be the case. He was a bit asthmatic, as well.

Years ago I recall a TV series (BBC?) about an injured officer who took up teaching during WWI and eschewed anything to do with the Senior Cadets and rounded on one of the CCF officers in the Common room for having no understanding on what life in the Front Line was like. A much older teacher took the veteran to one side and gently counselled him along the lines of 'that CCF officer would do anything to serve and 'do his bit' but had consumption as a child and will never meet the medical standards for the Army.' I always remember the poignancy of this piece - perhaps 40+ years ago.
 
Wouldn't surprise me,
I've mentioned elsewhere, for example of ex-widows of, so they were led to believe, ex-FEPOWs who only found out their deceased husbands had lived a sham when they they applied for the compensation.
But at least, as you mention, something positive came out of his hype.
But, on the other hand, how reliable are the reports on social media? Is it just an absence of evidence or are there strong indications of how he spent those years, in a reserved occupation for example or excused service because of a deformed leg?
The school initially issued quite a florid eulogy on the school website and were then forced to retract it when it was discovered he hadn't served in the Army, so I'm pretty sure that it is genuine, and I have chatted to one or two active members of the Old Boys Club (I haven't bothered to join) who confirmed the matter.

Perhaps he was a Jim Prideaux?
 

endure

GCM
I think that might very well be the case. He was a bit asthmatic, as well.

Years ago I recall a TV series (BBC?) about an injured officer who took up teaching during WWI and eschewed anything to do with the Senior Cadets and rounded on one of the CCF officers in the Common room for having no understanding on what life in the Front Line was like. A much older teacher took the veteran to one side and gently counselled him along the lines of 'that CCF officer would do anything to serve and 'do his bit' but had consumption as a child and will never meet the medical standards for the Army.' I always remember the poignancy of this piece - perhaps 40+ years ago.
'To serve them all my days' based on the book by R.F.Delderfield.

 
I think that might very well be the case. He was a bit asthmatic, as well.

Years ago I recall a TV series (BBC?) about an injured officer who took up teaching during WWI and eschewed anything to do with the Senior Cadets and rounded on one of the CCF officers in the Common room for having no understanding on what life in the Front Line was like. A much older teacher took the veteran to one side and gently counselled him along the lines of 'that CCF officer would do anything to serve and 'do his bit' but had consumption as a child and will never meet the medical standards for the Army.' I always remember the poignancy of this piece - perhaps 40+ years ago.

The tv series that you are thinking of, is from a book of the same name "To serve them all my days", by R F Delderfield. John Duttine played the part of the partly qualified teacher, now invalided ex-Army officer, who gets his start at the school, still suffering from PTSD. An excellent story, either book or series, which ends with his story coming full circle.

Edit: Bugger! Beaten to it by Filthy!... and Endure...!
 
The tv series that you are thinking of, is from a book of the same name "To serve them all my days", by R F Delderfield. John Duttine played the part of the partly qualified teacher, now invalided ex-Army officer, who gets his start at the school, still suffering from PTSD. An excellent story, either book or series, which ends with his story coming full circle.
I must get the book. It had a powerful impact on me as a teenager, remembering it 40 years on - when I can't remember what I did last week.
 
I must get the book. It had a powerful impact on me as a teenager, remembering it 40 years on - when I can't remember what I did last week.
Thoroughly recommend it as a good read, though slightly different in detail in some parts, only (I think) because the BBC wanted to improve the flow of the story for the screen time/episodic nature of their presentation. The main story though, remains the same, and is very poignant.
 
There would have been a social expectation that men of his age would have served and he probably couldn’t live with the perceived shame of others knowing he didn’t.
To me, the well-known WW1 recruiting advert (below) traded on that.

GreatWar.png
 
Top