Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Grandad's medals

Grandad's medals, originally uploaded by hedgiecc.

Today my grandfather would have been 107 years old. These are his medals. He ran away from home at the age of 15 and lied about his age in order to join the airforce - before it was even called the RAF. He spent his entire working life there, rising to the rank of Wing Commander, and serving all over - Malta, Egypt, Aden, South Africa, Burma, Suez.

He visited us in Johannesburg when I was about 10. Every day, we would walk together to what he called "the village" - our local suburban shopping mall, where we would sit in a cafe drinking tea (and/or chocolate milkshakes and waffles).

Finally, it was time for him to take the Blue Train back down to Cape Town to join his ship sailing back to England (despite his long career in the airforce he hated flying). I kind of knew that this would be the last time I saw him, and therefore decided to "interview" him on my tape recorder. I remember he said he hoped the next time he saw me I would be "a general in the army".

The army was never my thing - even as a child I didn't like playing with toy soldiers, so I was slightly disappointed with his comment.

But my intuition was right - it was the last time we saw each other. Three years later he died of a stroke. Dad flew to London for the funeral, bringing back the medals.

Later, I came to London to study and stayed on afterwards. My aunt told me on his bedside table they found the poem I had written for him and read on the platform at Johnannesburg station all those years ago.

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