War Poet.ca - A CFAP Project by Suzanne Steele

brandy with an old infantryman and the girl he met in the war

last night I dropped in on two of my favourite people, an elder couple D & J, for a glass of brandy. I love going there. we sit in their kitchen looking out at the lagoon, the ocean, the Olympic peninsula and talk about books and people we know and their long experience of life.

D, an Englishman who came with J to Canada in the ’50’s to work on the Avro Arrow, is an ex-infantryman conscripted for WWII. “the choice was army, air force, navy or spending years underground working in the mines if you were a conscientious objector” a no brainer considering the conditions of wartime coal mines I’d think.

D spent his war years as rear party training new recruits. one brother was in Bomber Command, another at Dunkirk, and his sister was a nurse in the foothills of the Himalayas. one can hear a tinge of regret in D’s voice when he explains he taught soldiering. I reassured him that rear party was all part of the living, breathing thing called army (and I’m thinking rear party is part of the skeleton that holds the muscles and organs and that maybe recce are the eyes, snipers the fingertips, rifle coy. the hands etc. etc… and feel free to correct me military pers.)

D met J when he showed up at J’s mother’s house for a bath. they did that in those days. ordinary people hosted servicemen and women. let them get clean, a taste of home, fed them. 50 + years later J & D are still an item and it gives faith in a faithless age.

anyway, last night D told me about his step-father who was a pilot in both wars, and whose very good friend was a famous fighter pilot named Douglas Bader. ignorant of military history, esp. British, I’d never heard of Bader. D told me how Bader had lost his legs in a plane crash, had them amputated but didn’t let it stop him from flying and being the very best.

apparently Bader flew missions over Germany and was shot down. without his legs. the Luftwaffe then contacted the RAF and arranged for a British plane to fly in safety over Germany with a pair of legs for Bader and drop them by parachute.
that says a lot about warriors respecting warriors. I know a young soldier whose dream it is someday to return to A’stan as an old man and sit around smoking cigarettes and drinking tea with the very men he is now fighting.

anyway you can read about Bader’s story here: Bader

when D’s step-father was courting his mother he used to fly over D’s country house and parachute little boxes of chocolates onto the tennis court. it was D’s job to run and fetch them.

D, J and I laughed when he told me these stories. how wonderful to be just across a kitchen table from history. and the brandy was good too.

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The page you're reading contains a single diary entry entitled brandy with an old infantryman and the girl he met in the war. It was posted here on April 10, 2010.


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