This weekend has included Armed Forces Day. My town, Weymouth in Dorset, England, UK has a long and proud record of hosting Veteran's weekend. Weymouth was one of the departure points for many American Forces who left from here to sail to Normandy in France for the DDay landings in 1944. Many, many, of those brave young men had never seen the sea, let alone set foot on a boat and sail off to an uncertain future. This period in Weymouth's history has been well remembered and those brave men who fought on foreign soil for us to live in liberty have been honoured here ever since. This part of Weymouth's history settled something that had been in my mind since I was a very little girl. I was born in Lyme Regis during the war. My Dad was away in the RAF and my Grandad was the male head of the family. My grandparents house was next to a Hotel (St. Michaels) and it was being used by the American Officers. I used to sit on the garden wall and look down the hill, waiting, who knows what for. I was always running indoors (according to my mother's stories) with a half a crown or sixpence or a shilling given to me by the Yanks. Then one day there was a lot more activity than usual next door and I was running in and out with armfuls of coat hangers, boxes of chewing gum, chocolate and of course loose change. The next day they were all gone. I wondered for years what had happened and then the penny dropped - they had all come up here to Weymouth in readiness for sailing to Normandy for the Landings.
The photograph at the start of this paragraph I took on Saturday evening at the 'Big Band' dance that is held every year as part of the remembrance. I love the music and sadly now I have to watch the dancing but in the past have enjoyed dancing to the Glenn Miller music which is like no other. There is nothing like American Swing music to get your feet tapping and wishing you were 30 years younger! The lady in the photo is Poppy Butcher who at 87 years of age is still working tireless to organise this weekend which everyone looks forward to. I don't think she missed a dance, she is an inspiration to us all. Today she was wearing her American Army Uniform (authentic) and was a passenger in one of the Military Vehicles in the Parade.
I am afraid that the photographs are all out of order as Blogger has been playing up, but you will get a gist of the day.
You will probably realise that I am a great admirer of the Armed Forces, and my family members past and present have served their Country in various conflicts. My father's father was a Surgeon/Captain in the Royal Army Medical Corps during the First World War and my mother's father received the DCM for his service also during the First World War. My father and my mother's two brothers were in the Royal Air Force during the Second World War. During this war my Grandfather on my mother's side served as a Special Constable in the Police Force. My father's father was already dead he died shortly after the First World War as a result of TB contracted in Mesoptamia. I obviously never knew him but I know my Grandmother like a lot of military wives was left with four young children to bring up on her own. My Dad's sister did her bit too during the Second World War. She seems to have done a bit of most things!! She was in the Land Army (I wish I had her uniform!!!!!!!!!!!) and also in the ATS (the women's branch of the Army). When she died a few years ago I inherited her scrapbooks containing photographs of her time in the ATS plus her Land Army Book, which is a treasured possession and her Red Cross Service medals. She also in her later years while she was still fit enough worked tirelessly for the Royal British Legion and the Red Cross.
My daughter's son, William, the eldest of my Grandchildren, is in the Fleet Air Arm. He is a Helicopter Engineer and he has already had 2 tours in Afghanistan. All our lives were on hold while he was away and thank God he returned home safely. And so it goes on. My family's involvement in the Armed Forces.
It has been a great weekend with highs and lows. Always a huge emotionally charged event, today had its drama and distress when one of the Royal British Legion Standard bearers collapsed in the middle of the parade. How must everyone in that parade felt when they had to carry on marching while CPR was performed on the poor lady lying in their path. After all the marchers and standard bearers had passed by the parade was stopped while the Emergency Services were called and finally the Air Ambulance arrived. This landed on the Beach and there was a huge sandstorm. Once she was safely on board, having been resuscitated, the road was cleared and the military vehicles that had been coming up the rear were allowed to carry on. Lets hope she fully recovers.
Next year we hope to go to Normanday for the June 6th celebrations there. It has been something I have wanted to do for a long time.