My Father was a ”mans” man. A bomber pilot in World War 2, invalided out of the war from his posting in India in 1944, where he had contracted some sort of blood disorder before hostilities ended in 1945. The war changed my Father’s character. My Mother, knew this, and made such unbelievable allowances for him which seems inconceivable to me to day.
One day Charlie had been playing golf. As usual he had enjoyed himself with his mates, Curley who loved to bet, and partnering Cuttee the club champion and other players had joined in for a game of “skins”. A “skin’ in golf is a hole won and my father had had a good day, collecting more than his fair share of winning “skins”. So he happened to consume a good portion of his “winnings” at the club bar. So much so that it caused him to overlook his planned wedding anniversary dinner date with my mother that night.
Much later he drove home slowly, aware he’d had too much to drink. Meanwhile at home my Mother had been sitting, rigidly in her chair, dressed for the evenings planned engagement, patiently waiting for “Charlie” to finally arrive home. There was certain tension in her tiny frame, like a steel spring ready to snap at the slightest surface disturbance.
Charlie arriving home saw my mother through the window dressed for the occasion, sitting motionless in the chair and remembered the anniversary dinner plans as he walked up the steps to open the front door. He opened the door slowly, tentatively; considering an appropriate entrance, at the same time reaching for his hat and crouching forward, as if in combat, gently throws it.
It glides over the furniture for the perfect soft “landing” at my mother’s feet.
Charlie kept a war diary.
Went on a 1,000 mile trip last night, a “bull’s-eye”. Bags of searchlights and few night fighters.
Flew at 13,000 feet and nearly froze. We are on another “bull’s-eye” last night, airborne from 10pm, until 5am, about a 1,000 miles.
Wizard trip. No night fighters but search lights were troublesome, my starboard motor wasn’t behaving very well, (it was a lousy kite anyway) and I was very pleased to return safely to base. Whole crew very tired. Squadron Leaders had given us the night off, so it’s early to bed .
My mother heads slowly turned, coldly eyeing its presence. Eyes glanced to the door; tension subsides at Charlie’s hesitant entrance. A momentarily flicker of compassion passes over her, for her Charlie’s home.
Charlie’s enters the room, a fleeting glance to my Mother, as confidence returns.
A contrite Charlie stands before the ‘Commander’ for
he’s arrived back at base at 9.30am in the morning after a night’s celebration ‘and his boys caught AWL are in plenty trouble’ but the incident is quickly overlooked.
He speaks slowly to disguise any hint of slur, “Hello Dear. Now I was thinking about our anniversary. Rather than take you out tonight as we planned I have a better idea. Tomorrow we could celebrate, you can cook for me my favourite ‘Sunday roast’ and I will invite all my air force mates, from whom you will hear some good jokes.’
This reminded me of the frequent stories by “Charlie” of the dear English folk whose homes became a home away from home to the ‘lads’ from Australia.
They outpoured the best of ‘British’ gratitude. The ‘Homes of England’became a refuge, a sanctuary, warmth. Stiff upper lip, ‘The British Empire’,don’t worry about the bombs, siren going off, bloody nuisance, those bloody Germans, finish your cup of tea first son.My fathers often spoke about it, almost in reverent tone, not one to normally show his feelings. Land of hope and glory, this was their finest hour.
A time to record it.
Arrived at the BBC studios at 9.30am. met several officials then a rehearsal after which we began recording. We made 6 records, 2 of which had to be repeated. because of technical faults. The BBC fellas were very pleased, called in story writers and 2 newspaper correspondents to get our story. To day we are going to have our photograph taken for the papers.
“Feeling a bit peckish Charlie” asks my Mother, fully restored to her devotional self.
Yes, sure I am.
Steak and Eggs?
Just what the Doctor ordered.
The Medical Superintendent handed Charlie his papers. Cause for celebration, “You’re being invalided out of the air force”. The post message was brief.‘Darling I’m on my way home. I can’t wait to see you. Everyone at the hospital is jealous. They have drawn pictures of you with me coming towards you. They think you’re a good sort. I nearly died,they thought I was a goner, but I pulled through for you my dear,I was unconscious for ten days. I’m coming home.’
Her Charlie’s returning.It was almost too painful to talk about the long separation to anyone.
They (her feelings) must not be mentioned in any detail, ever.The emotion is an ocean, and you must not swim against the tide.
It’s not a good idea.
The red roofed houses of Sydney have received many telegrams of those who will not return. It casts a grey shadow over the community.
A sad note too deep to hear.
His premature death from cancer aged 57 was hastened, if not directly caused by his wartime experiences. I remember he had continued difficulty in breathing and frequent bouts of bronchitis. At his funeral I can remember the streets being blocked off; in anticipation of the large crowd as all of the numerous service organisations he had served so well, came to bid “au revoir” to their “faithful digger”.
And of course the spirit of those great mates, the best friends he ever had, who had perished earlier, in the “Theatre of War” were also present in the form of the last entry in his diary. … it seems if the war is like a series of more or less interesting events, with a nightmare of sudden death in the background. Many of the fine lads mentioned in this book will never again to see their homes. They will always, to me, be the good friends they were when we last met, they were men I was proud to call ‘friend”.
My parent’s marriage appeared to be made in heaven for I can scarcely remember a single cross word ever spoken between them .But it was based on a lop sided devotion of my Mother to my Father, who reigned supreme.
And to whom she spoilt rotten.
It belongs to a past era, never to be repeated, as the two stories testify.