Battlefield Relations

 

We were walking along a road near Ypres, heading for a little restaurant which Ailsa knew of when David dropped his bombshell.

 

“Your Dad was here, you know”

 

(This is it getting up close and personal, folks!)

 

My father and mother separated when I was about four years old and my father died soon afterwards.

 

Mother, having decided that she and I would do better on our own , took me to her sister and brother-in -law in Ayrshire and I was brought up among aunts, uncles, grown-up cousins and their children  who were about my own age.

 

No mention was ever made of my absent father and my enquiries elicited a series of entertaining responses such as

 

“Be quiet”

“For goodness’ sake be quiet”

Don’t annoy your mother”
“Away outside and play and SHUT THE DOOR!!!!” –
this last was usually from my Uncle Jimmy Kirkwood who may have been a Lovat Scout  sharpshooter (he kept a carbine on top of the wardrobe) and who certainly served in Gallipoli with the Royal  Veterinary Corps but who had a pathological fear of draughts and a profound irritation with  small girls who caused them !

 

I soon learned that enquiries about my father were politically incorrect so I didn’t make them.

 

Really, I can’t say that I was in any way psychologically  scarred by not having a father – I was far too busy just getting on with  life – (and very interesting it was, too  !!) - but  I did puzzle over him from time to time and if an odd piece of relevant  information  was let slip , I remembered it.

 

So, when David and Ailsa (being obsessive about WW1) asked about father’s war service, I was able to say that I thought he’d been in something called “The Dandy Ninth” and that there was some connection with India.

 

As it turned out, they found that he wasn’t in the 9th Royal Scots (although his brother was!) but, indeed, he had served in the Indian Army.

 

Now, here on a road near Ypres, David was confusing me.

 

“I thought he was in India,” I said.

“Yes, love, he was commissioned in 1919 but he was here up to 1918”

“What was he doing?” I asked.

“He was R.G.A.  Oh yes, he did his bit for four years. He was on the big guns supporting the 51st Highland Division.”

 

By now we’d reached the little café and were tucking into toasted sandwiches…..but all I could think of was my father and his war and that he had survived.

I’d been so interested in D.J’s heroic relations that I’d quite forgotten about my lot!!!

 

As we were leaving, David said excitedly,     “Come and see this!”

 

The café had a little shelf under glass with odds and ends of WW1 memorabilia for sale.

 

He was pointing to a small brass shoulder-badge with “RGA” on it.

 

“That’s just like the ones your Dad would have worn. That’s an early example – between 1915 and 1917”

 

D.J. bought it for me and when we got home, Peter Baker crafted it beautifully into a very wearable brooch.

 

So if you notice it on my lapel, it doesn’t stand for “Really Good Ankles” (as if!!) or even “Resoundingly Goofed Again” (a regular occurrence!) -  No, it’s “Royal Garrison Artillery” – my father’s regiment.

 

Freda Drysdale

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