Carol’s grandad Pop spent most of World War 2 in Burma and had been awarded the Burma Star. I first met him in 1975 and over the years we developed a very close relationship; having military backgrounds in common we bonded quickly and would spend hours talking, reflecting or just being.
Whilst serving in Burma he had written several volumes of his memoirs which he loaned to me to privately read although after reading them I was so moved emotionally that I offered to publish them for him. Although he agreed I could do that (very reluctantly – if I ‘really’ wanted to) I remember him telling me that to publish his diaries was not why he had written them; in fact he hadn’t written them for anyone to read or even expected they would want to. Writing a short piece every day during years of conflict and misery, thousands of miles away from home in a hostile environment was a massive form of comfort to him; his diary was a world he could vanish into at the end of every day for reasons (which to me) ordinary people would find it impossible to understand.
When he died I remember an immense sense of pride in him as the Burma Star Association carried his coffin and gave their mantra to the gathered: ‘When you go home remember for your tomorrow we gave our today’.
Today (in real time about two hours ago) I spent a little time reading some of Pops memoirs and (without compromising too much of his privacy) I photographed the very last paragraph of the very last volume. The entry is from 24 September 1945 (ten years before I was even born) and relays how he feels to finally arrive safely back in the UK. To me that paragraph is just so powerful and yet the reality is that I am the person he hadn’t expected would read his diary or would even want to.
(Pops last diary entry – typed text is below)
To compare the content of my writings with Pops would be so wrong and wholly inappropriate; Pop wrote during a world war about events he had seen or experienced many of which he found to be extremely traumatic and from which (I know) affected him all his life. But what he also did, was give me a lesson (whether he knew it or not) in the value of keeping a diary or a memoir in which I learned to write about my feelings and in doing so also learn to manage them effectively.
So what has this post to do with Gibraltar? Two things I guess. Pops’ boat home from Burma stopped at Gibraltar on the way back ….and if it hadn’t been for him …..these memoirs would most certainly never have been written. For me personally writing my memoirs of Gibraltar keeps me close and connected to a place I very much love.
Nick Ransley said:
Hi Alan, my father’s brother fought and died in Burma in the war. Sad to think of how many died, but happy at the thought of those coming home. I am visiting the war graves there next month with my brother. Used to call my grandfather Pop also.
LikeLiked by 1 person
Alan Dixon said:
Hi Nick and thanks for sharing your memory. I think all of the Burma Star men were absolute heroes. After reading Pops diaries I can see why many didn’t want to talk about their experiences when they returned home, bless them. I hope your trip next month is a success Nick and thank you for calling in here. Kind regards Alan