Wednesday, June 4, 2008
Wednesday, 4 June: Celebrating fathers
A Father's Day salute to my wonderful dad! I really had the best dad in the world(except for yours, of course!) - honourable, steadfast, loving, slow to anger and true. A privilege for which I remain deeply grateful. How much easier to trust a heavenly Father when the earthly one was a good role model!
Doesn't Dad just look spiffing in this photo? Leslie Alfred Hammond (1915-1994) was 26 years old in 1941 when the camera clicked. Here he is a second lieutenant, no. 110438, of Prince Alfred Guards, a mounted regiment. Dad almost never spoke about the war although my brother and I begged for gory, heroic tales. He volunteered as part of the South African army under General Jan Smuts and did his training as a newly married man at Robert Heights, Pretoria. He was sent to Egypt as part of the Allied thrust against Rommel, in an armoured car division. He did duty behind the enemy lines in the Quattar Depression. After the Allies defeated Rommel, Dad's regiment joined the 6th Tank Division in the invasion of Italy and fought in the battle of Monte Cassino.
After that he was involved in mopping up operations in Italy and spend the remainder of the war there. He only returned home in late '45 or early '46. What he did convey of the war was a deep love of Italy and Italian opera. In 1972 he took my mom to see the places he loved - Rome, Florence, Venice, Bellargia, Naples, Lake Como and Sorrento. He did, however, describe the dirt, heat and flies in Egypt, the doggedness of the German defences and the occasion when he and his mates left a troop train in Italy, stripped and took an impromptu shower under the pumps at the railroad station in full view of the locals!
Mom and Dad married in East London, South Africa on 4 August, 1941.
Every generation has its challenges - my parents' challenge was a World War, anxiety and separation and then a rapidly changing and confusing post-war society in which they had to establish a family on a good foundation. But they managed.
Finally, a poem by my favourite war poet, Wilfred Owen.
Anthem for doomed youth
What passing bells for these who die as cattle?
Only the monstrous anger of the guns.
Only the stuttering rifles' rapid rattle
Can patter out their hasty orisons.
No mockeries now for them; no prayers nor bells,
Nor any voice of mourning save the choirs,-
The shrill, demented choirs of wailing shells;
And bugles calling for them from sad shires.
What candles may be held to speed them all?
Not in the hands of boys, but in their eyes
Shall shine the holy glimmers of good-byes.
The pallor of girls' brows shall be their pall;
Their flowers the tenderness of patient minds,
and each slow dusk a drawing-down of blinds.