The Suez Veterans Association

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Suez Canal Zone, Egypt.     

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"Passiondale" - A True Story

A True Story
One hundred years ago, in 1917, my father, a regular soldier serving in the Grenadier Guards, was wounded for the third and final time at the 3rd Battle of Ypres which came to be known as "Passiondale."
He was wounded in the hip at the Retreat from Mons, 1914, and again at the Somme in 1916, this time in his shoulder. From hospital in 1916, he wrote to his sister saying: "I can't wait to get back to the lads in France."

His wish was granted and he rejoined his regiment in time to suffer his knock-out blow at "Passiondale." Here his wounds rendered him totally blind, deaf on one side, and 50 per cent disability in his left hand and arm. My father spent eighteen months in a military hospital then a similar period at St Dunstan's, the latter founded in 1915 for support and training of blinded ex-servicemen.

In 1920, he met and married a lady who ten years later was to be my mother. Despite his almost 100 per cent disability, he found a job he could do, and prospered. He became indispensable, so much so that his employer, a chemicals distributor, persuaded him to continue at his post, latterly on a part-time basis, postponing his retirement until his seventy-second year, eight years before his death.

For most of his working life post 1920, my father travelled to and from his work by tram or bus. My mother, and later my sister or I, would take dad to his stop in the morning, and meet him at the same stop in the evening on his return from work. At the other end, each morning the works foreman, would meet him at a tram stop outside the work's entrance, and at close of business, put him on the tram (or bus) home where my sister or I would be waiting to escort him to our house.

Needless to say, taking the same journey every day for several decades as a disabled serviceman, all the bus/tram drivers, conductors and regular passengers knew dad well. On more than one occasion, when a minute or so late getting to the bus stop we would find the bus waiting, with engine ticking over - would any of the occurrences described in this saga happen today?

What was dad's reward? Just the basic 'Pip, Sqeak and Wilfred'. No GSM for him - makes me more than a little ashamed. A BEM, or MBE would have been a kind gesture. Perhaps he would have stood a better chance of recognition if he had enrolled in 'Strictly', 'Big Brother' or 'Celebrity Sumpn or Other'?

I give up...