I've just begun work on the next chapter, 'How do they do it?' of A Police Dog in the Family.
See post of 24 April for Police Dog Villain's first appearance here.
A note on the next chapter It explains how Villain, the bold, intelligent German Shepherd dog was well suited to criminal work, and why Gipsy, my lovely, gentle Cocker Spaniel, may have been suitable for search and rescue work.
The British Expeditionary Force (BEF) The image is of a note I enclosed with Mum's birthday card about her neighbour's son, R (see yesterday's post). It tells something of three tragic evacutions which cost - among thousands of others - her neighbour's only son's life. 340,000 Allied troops had to be evacuated in Operations Dynamo (Dunkirk May 26-June4) which everyone's heard of, Cycle (Le Havre & other French ports ended 13 June) and Arial (St Nazaire 15-25 June).
When I sent the note to Mum, I'd thought R & his friend had got to St Nazaire by 'every man for himself''. I was wrong: there was RAF fighter cover. But on 17 June after they'd embarked on HMT Lancastria at St Nazaire along with >5000 others - part of an intended convoy - the Luftwaffe bombed it with 3,500 lives lost including R's. Churchill had the the news suppressed in the public interest at the time and the emphasis has been ever since on the evacuations from Dunkirk.
Sources (harrowing reading): Finest Hour (Hodder & Stoughton, 1999) by Phil Craig & Tim Clayton; Dunkirk2: The Untold Story ianhallauthor.blogspot.com/2016/07/dunkirk-2-untold-story-operation-cycle.html
My note to Mum concludes:
'...He must have breathed a sigh of relief when he got aboard the Lancastria only to be hurled into eternity shortly afterwards. Ah, well, that's war for you.'
Mum would sometimes speak of her neighbour, the missing WW2 soldier's mother who had already lost her only daughter to meningitis. She'd clung to the hope for the rest of her life that her only son would get back. According to Mum, he and his friend had been on the Lancastria waiting to set sail when it was bombed. When his friend got back, after saying that they had both ended up in the sea he remained silent. Mum thought there had been some sort of cover-up.
In August 2001, I looked him up on the CWGC website. He is commemorated on the Dunkirk Memorial to the Missing but his date of death is 17 June 1940, almost a fortnight after the evacuations from Dunkirk ended. There was more to the story that I was able to fill Mum in on before she died.
It should appear in tomorrow's blog.
- Royal British Legion Poppy PRESS 2008
One of the first of many sad things I learned soon after joining the Legion in 2001 was how ex-service people are over-represented among the homeless. Many are affected by post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), a.k.a. shell-shock (WW1), battle fatigue (WW2), LMF (lack of moral fibre, RAF term, WW2) which can make them unlivable with and they end up lonely and homeless. The Legion helps in many ways from major projects on managing PTSD to turning lives around with measures which can be simple and inexpensive.
'God damn it, you've got to be kind.'
- millionaire Eliot Rosewater, who spent his money on little acts of kindness in his town,
in Kurt Vonnegut's God Bless You, Mr Rosewater
Title source: line from final stanza of 'There's No Silver Lining' in Aftermath (2014) - see blogs 21 & 22 May
How are the above items connected? During World War 2, while Dad was in the British Liberation Army, Mum and I lived in Lancaster. Aged between 3 and 7 then, I used to wonder why there were so many men, with one trouser leg pinned up, sitting on the pavement outside the town centre shops. I don't remember ever asking why. Maybe I guessed that, hearing the adults' constant preoccupation with their own wartime problems, the answer would have been: 'Mind your own business and don't stare, it's very rude.'
Those men must have been some of the 28,000 British soldiers who had lost a leg in World War 1, their livelihood and more besides. They would have arrived by ambulance train from a south coast port.
Well over 100 soldiers lost a limb in Afghanistan. This week, 20-26 May, is BLESMA, the Limbless Veterans (charity founded 1931) week. Follow this link to Joanna Bourke's history of the development of limb prostheses for war amputees in 'The Wounds of War': www.eastsussexww1.org.uk/wounds-war/
The British Legion, a charity, was founded in 1921 to meet the range of desperate needs of service people, war veterans and their families which the nation could not provide after such a costly war. My father joined in 1946 after he was demobbed from WW2. His badge is on the right of the image. I joined after visiting the Normandy beaches in 2000 when it had become the Royal British Legion (see badge on left of image). The Legion is still needed today because, as I once heard the late Avril Fearns, fellow Legion member and tireless poppy collector, put it:
'Politicians make war.'
Words failed me yesterday while thinking of the unknown Punjabi soldier on an ambulance train who would not see his home again.
The trains with their wounded occupants were extensions of the squalid Western Front, and nurses complained about the language barrier between them and their Punjabi patients. One nurse learned a little Punjabi, giving her patients the priceless comfort of hearing their mother tongue.
Macclesfield war memorial, centrepiece of the front cover of In Our Fathers' Footsteps, 2018. A century on from the end of WWI, it shows Britannia honouring a fallen soldier against the background of a darkening sky and a black cloud with a silver lining.
'There's No Silver Lining' is the title of the parody in my 2014 book, Aftermath (see Books), on Lena Guilbert Ford's 1914 poem 'Keep The Home Fires Burning' set to music by Ivor Novello.
'When the boys come home' This weekend we went round a WWI ambulance train on display at the National Railway Museum, York. Millions of sick and wounded soldiers invalided out of putrid trenches were taken to destinations around Great Britain for many of whom there would be - as in the final lines of the parody:
'... no silver lining
through our dark clouds shining:
penniless, limbless, shell-shocked, blind
we are now back home.'
My uncle, pictured above in the dress uniform of the Seaforth Highlanders, got home unscathed from the Western front with a Military Medal (blog post 4 April). A gravely injured Punjabi in an ambulance train knew he would never see his home again. Words fail me.
In 1916, almost ninety years before the Animals in War monument was erected on Park Lane, London this World War I soldier was awarded the Military Medal for bravery during the Battle of the Somme. Under heavy shell fire, he managed to reach the barn and unlock the door for the terrified horses inside 'to obey their instincts and flee'. His is one of three Military Medal awards on which the poem 'Polished and Proud' in my book Aftermath is based.
'A righteous man regardeth the life of his beast'
- Proverbs 12, 13
This family photo is of a retriever (I think it was) nursing an orphan kitten. And examples of the opposite: cats nursing orphaned puppies aren't too difficult to find.
But none are so amazing as the cat who reared three ducklings along with her three kittens. They'd hatched in a barn when the kittens had just been born so, instead of eating them for breakfast, she raised them to adulthood when they continued to follow her around the farmyard. Follow this link for science broadcaster Liz Bonnin's exposition of the science behind the story:
City sippers, Robert Thompson's article in the Spring 2005 issue of the RSPCA magazine Insidenews is on the late nineteenth century water troughs in and around the city of York for animals from small dogs to horses and cattle. They were installed after free drinking water fountains for human use had reduced cholera epidemics in cities. I came across the article in my animal stories file while I was trying, without success, to find a cutting about the postmistress's cat who saw off a gunman (see 11 May blog).
'A righteous man regardeth the life of his beast...' I'd had no idea of the origin of this quotation inscribed on the back of one of the troughs in City sippers dedicated to Henry Richardson, co-founder of the RSPCA's York Branch in 1864. I must have looked it up at the time because I'd noted on the cutting that it is from Proverbs 12, 13, a thousand years before Christ, in the King James version of the Bible. Here is the verse in full:
'A righteous man regardeth the life of his beast: but the tender mercies of the wicked are cruel.'
Explanatory note Cat (one of four we have had over the years), who had made himself comfortable on the back of an uncomfortably seated young visitor, was annoyed i.e.glared then went out in a huff when he was required to move.
'The cat who walks by himself' (One of Kipling's Just So Stories). Conversations about either dogs or cats veer at times onto comparisons between them which are apt be unfavourable to cats, describing them as self-centred and unsociable. I'd always viewed them as self-contained with a need for some company and assumed the difference in sociability between dogs and cats was that cats, unlike dogs, are by nature solitary hunters.
Beware of the cat? You might believe that cats are too self-centred to bother themselves with defending their owners but I'd always felt that cats pick up human emotions as well as dogs. I wish I'd kept the newspaper cutting from years ago of an elderly postmistress held up at gunpoint by a man who was sent packing by her cat which leapt up from the floor and sank its claws into his face. Instead here is the link to Californian news report of a cat which drove off a dog which had bitten its owners' four-year-old boy after knocking him off his bike:
And, in the letters section of SAGA magazine December 2000, a reader, V A Henderson, wrote of her cat placing gifts on her seriously ill daughter's bed of flower heads from the garden which it had broken off for her.
Caring, compassionate cats.
RIP Villain, the police dog in our family I have just tidied up the chapter on the modern working dog's heritage (see 26 April blog). It goes back through the millennia to the first wolf-dogs who bonded with early humans, sadly not always to their mutual advantage.
BEWARE OF THE DOG
Yesterday Paul took a photo of this tile which has hung on our kitchen wall since we bought it in 1978 on a visit to Pompeii and Vesuvius. Chained guard dogs like poor Fido (Faithful) here would have had no chance of fleeing from a pyroclastic flow despite having sensed preliminary earth tremors beforehand.
Paul took this photo of this tile on a gate post in Taormina, Sicily in 2016 when we would watch Mount Etna performing from our hotel window as it grew dark. It erupted soon after we had returned home.
We thought it was a replica of our tile above but they aren't even as similar as 'Spot the differences' pictures. I can't remember seeing such notices on the Pompeian buildings but I was more interested then in collecting Beware of the dog notices in different languages. I gave up after getting to seven, including Cantonese and Hebrew.
REST IN PEACE, FAITHFUL DOGS
It's almost two years since I published In Our Fathers' Footsteps (see under BOOKS). My latest book, One Dog and His Cop, about my cousin's police dog,was published 30 November this year (see under BOOKS).