Loss of a Generation

A very good friend of mine moved on to Valhalla yesterday. Probably not of much interest to many here, but he is most certainly worth a mention.

Many years after discharge, I started life again as a nurse, and aswell as working in acute care, I worked on a casual basis in long term care. I consider my self honoured to have made friends with a very select group of individuals.

Patrick, who died yesterday, I met a couple of years ago in the long term care facility I pick up hours in. I met him the first time when I went to his room to debride and dress an ulcer on his heel. He was starting to develop dementia, which worsened over the next few years. However, Patrick still had interesting stories to tell. Over his bed hung a picture of a very young man wearing a Denison smock and a Parachute Regiment beret and badge. It turns out that Patrick volunteered for airborne during the war, and took part in all of the major drops. I consider myself fortunate to have been given a first hand acount of Arnhem by someone who was there. thanks mate.

Now, that not being enough, on the lower floor I have a patient/resident who just happens to be German. He was a founding member of the Calgary Gliding Club, and has many pictures of his gliding days. he was generous enough to share with me his picture album. Now, this guy, like Patrick is nails aswell. he was a WWII Falschirmjager, who moved on to be a Glider Pilot, and was part of the group that took part in Op. Eiche, the Grand Sasso raid to liberate Mussonlini with Skorzeny. He piloted one of the gliders used to land the troops involved, again, he is a mine of information.

Turns out the place is full of them, I have a Firefly commander from Normandy, a Chindit, a Royal Engineer Officer from Africa/Italy, a German Nurse that finished up working in one of the Berlin flak towers in 45. There are two ex merchant marine sailors that sailed the North routes to Russia.

It is unfortunate that I did not record Patrick when I had the chance, but I do remember in detail his recolections, but i am most certainly going to start taping what the others have to say if they are willing.

Anyway, for any airborne bretheren of Patrick out there, raise him a glass!
I was just talking with a mate about the World War 2 generation last weekend.

We remembered that as lads quite a few of the older teachers at my school had fought in the second world war, many of them worked for a good few years after I left - which ages me a bit too.

I've noticed on Remembrance day that the Second war veterans are starting to get very dodery rather than just elderly.

I shall raise a glass to your mate this evening.
Whilst not being one of the Airborne Elite, I too have had the honour of meeting many ex ww2 servicemen of many branches and when I was very young, a few from WW1. The facts often emerged by accident whilst chatting to them. One example:- I was flying to Edinburgh with a colleague from another company, we had quite a rough landing in a stiff crosswind, once safely stopped he turned to me and said it was the worst landing he had experienced since putting an overloaded glider down near Pegasus Bridge! It turned out he trained & flew as a glider pilot in WW2!
Coincidentally I had a German G/F in the 60's,she told me her father, who I never met, was also in Skorzeny's group helping rescue Mussolini!
So many of these chaps had fantastic reminicences if you could get them to talk about them, there would have been so much material for many books.
I too will raise a glass this evening to yet another departed hero!
I shall raise a glass to Patrick... and to all of those brave, brave men.
Quite a few of my parents friends served in WWII.

All well manned polite men who are no longer with us.

Jocky Allen of James street, Leith who was Airbourne.

Alec "Pinky" Williams who did time in the glasshouse in Egypt, yet escaped from Crete. His wife passed away a few months ago.

Bertie Hughes who survived Arnhem.

Patrick K Dolan a commando who participated at Dieppe/ St Nazaire.
About 10 years ago during a Pond Jump West Ex myself and some mates visited the Canadian version of the British Legion for a few beers in Banff. We were treat like royalty and among the many members we were introduced to, we talked to a veteran of the Dieppe raid and an ex Fallschirmjaeger who'd settled in Canada after he was released from a POW pen on the prairies. Fascinating day out and an experience I'll remember until my dying day. Unlike the RBL here, all of the members in Banff were ex-forces.
Sad to say that the youngest pilot who fought in BoB or the youngest soldier to have escaped from Dunkirk or Calais is now 88: the youngest survivor of D-Day or Arnhem is 84. These old ones are passing on quickly now and the numbers able to make Remembrance Day are dwindling.
My friend Jack was a POW from just after D Day and again in Korea, he has just gone into a Hospice with very little hope but he wants me to break him out and go down the pub, the plans are well in hand
I am the youngest member of my local RNA (at 41)and proud of the fact that we have nine WW2 veterans,two of whom landed on D-Day,the army one stepped ashore and the navy one had to swim ashore after his landing craft was blown up underneath him! The dits they spin on a RNA meeting night over a few beers makes me realise, I really am sat in the company of heroes. We also have a couple of veterans from Aden and Korea in our ranks as well. Makes my 22 years in the mob seem like nothing.


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I never knew until it was too late but only four doors away from my childhood home lived CSM Ron Butcher of the Rifle Brigade. He was so badly wounded in the withdrawal from Calais he was invalided out and then spent the rest of the war running the local Home Guard.
Reminds me of when I was a school in the early 60's.
We had an Art teacher who was the archetypal "arty" type,corduroy jacket with patches on the sleeves,beard and moustache,desert "wellies",when asked about his exploits was very reticent,just said he was in the Navy,wouldn't go into details.

Every Wednesday afternoon we were allowed to visit the Art galleries,and museums in London,having been to most of them more than once,half the class decided that we would "do" the IWM,to "sketch the architecture".

They had an exhibition on about pivotal actions of WW2,so there we were looking at all the old photos,when someone said they had spotted a familiar face,we all went over to said display,"the sinking of the Italian Fleet at Tarranto",there he was large as life,our Art teacher,Mr Rickman,Torpedo Stringbag Pilot,name underneath the photo,and he had also loaned his shitload of medals to the museum,for the length of the exhibition as well.
I had a friend in Northern Germany who was in the desert with the Luftwaffe. My father in law was there with the RAF. Unfortunately both passed away before I could get them together. :soldier:
As a child, I recall asking a neighbour why he had an interesting pattern of criss cross marks on his back. He picked up his shirt and hurriedly put it on (to protect my young eyes I think now) and resumed his mowing of the lawn telling me "It is a special medal that those of us in Japanese POW camps all wear."

RIP Mr Beech. God rest his soul.
It is living History that we are losing.
I am on good terms with a vet of Burma 42-45, and Brit Army 38-60, an old Sapper who is a mine of information.
Also I consider a German friend who was 15 in 1945 another major source of gen on life in Berlin as seen from the other side.
When they are gone We will lose so much.
I have 'Attended' RE exams for Locally employed up the Khyber, done First & Second Arakan advanced and retreated the length of Burma and watched the Great raid on Peanamund and Welcomed Ivan into Berlin.
It's great being a nurse. I have cared for some remarkable people, including Paras, Spitfire pilots, resistance workers, to name but a few. My job in the NHS is stressful, often thankless and comparatively poorly paid, but when I hear stories from some of my patients I count my blessings. They are the real heroes.


I gauge the disappearing generation by my old man, he was 18 when the war started and is now 89, so the number must be falling every day those that are left. He was RAF Regt in Burma.
The sad fact is that its the second time for people my age, my Dad and most of his mates fought in WW1, and was an ambulance driver in WW2, but in the 50/60s all his mates who had survived two world wars were a strange group in my eyes, one bloke who they all looked up to, had the worst case of the shakes I have ever saw, they called him "Shakky" but once, when somone mad a joke about him, they all went mad. I really wish I had talked more to my Dad as he had lived one hell of a life, fought and wounded at the Somme, transferred into the ASC , a couple of years at sea, his first Wife and kids killed in the bombing in WW2, married again and brought up me and my late brother, but I really wish I had spent more time in his company.

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