In My Father’s Footsteps

So, I’ve actually gone and done it.

I’ve been toying with the idea of self-publishing for some time, but yesterday I took the plunge and uploaded a short memoir of my pilgrimage to the beaches of Dunkirk in 2009 to Amazon.

DOGTAGSMy dad was one of 340,000 soldiers evacuated from the beaches of Dunkirk in May 1940 following the German invasion of Belgium, Holland and France. Dad died when I was in my early twenties. He never really talked about his experiences, but in 2009 I visited France with my friend Anna. Not only did we walk the full length of the beach from De Panne in Belgium to Dunkirk in France in his memory, but we also had the honour of meeting a real Dunkirk veteran and talking to him about his time on the beach 69 years earlier.

And then… I met an elderly man who had known my father all those years ago; who had lived in the house next door to where Dad was billeted for six months.

If you’re interested in reading the story, please click here to purchase a copy.  I’ve also included several photos from my journey on the In My Father’s Footsteps link at the top of this page.

Enjoy.

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Wartime Rations – Day Five

Britain declared war on Germany on September 3rd, 1939.  Although that declaration was followed by fighting in Norway and U-boat attacks on British ships in the Atlantic, so little happened for the next few months, that people in the UK started referring to it as The Bore War.

That all changed on Friday, May 10th 1940.  At 2am, the Germans invaded the Low Countries.  Three weeks later their grip on mainland Europe became absolute when the last soldiers of the British Expeditionary Force – including my dad – were evacuated from the beaches of Dunkirk.   It would be four long years before the British Army set foot on French soil again.

In 2009 I walked the 22 kilometre length of the Dunkirk beach with a friend. Unknowingly at the time, I took this photo of his dog tags very close to the spot where he actually stepped out on to the sands.

dunkirk beach

Getting back to my rations today.  No surprises when I tell you I had porridge for breakfast, eh?  Lunch was leftover Woolton Pie from last night with some Bubble and Squeak.  And then, treat of all treats – I had a piece of chocolate this afternoon.  My sweet ration is 3ozs of sweets/chocolate a week and I can’t tell you how wonderful that one single ounce of chocolate tasted.

Dinner was Beef Hot Pot and Beetroot (I’m really getting to like beetroot) followed by Apple and Rhubarb Crumble. Filling and tasty.

Rhubarb crumble Beef hotpot

A friend was telling me about how her father, who grew up in the countryside on the Isle of Wight during the war, was able to eat an egg for breakfast every day. When he got married and moved to the mainland, he was quite upset to discover his ration was now down to one egg per week – if they were even available.   When I mentioned this to Anne, she told me the following story.  I’ve never heard it before, and I think it’s a classic.

From Anne.

About the man from the IoW and his eggs – Yes, I’m sure that country folk fared better than us townies.  It isn’t easy to raise chickens in a city tenement, or to pot a rabbit or a pheasant with a shotgun.  Once when I was wandering alongside a stream in Kippen I came across a shot pheasant, dead but still warm, grabbed it and hid it under my coat till I got back to the house.  Mary (my mum) said she had no idea how to start preparing it so I’d better get on the bus to Glasgow and take it home.  Once there, I got the job of stripping off the feathers and then Mum, Dad & I had a good meal.  Took some of the best feathers back to Kippen to play cowboys and Indians.