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Bits and bobs about my life in my lovely home, Thatchwick Cottage, Pretoria, South Africa.

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.


willow said...

A beautiful tribute to your father, Eleanor! What a handsome and accomplished man. Lovely photos and very touching poem.

Hope you are feeling better and over your nasty cold! :)

Janet said...

Aren't Dads just the best?? My Dad has been on a similar path...spent part of the war in Naples, but he hated Italy. Oh dear! He and my Mom were married in 1940 and just celebrated their 68th Anniversary. I am so blessed to still have both of them.


Dee Dee said...

Eleanor...I have so enjoyed reading about your father..quite the handsome young man in his uniform...and the wedding photo..priceless! A beautiful couple..I love your mother's veil and gown ..just lovely...A beautiful post...Blessings..DeeDee

Theresa @ Take A Sentimental Journey said...

enjoyed reading your story Eleanor.Love the wedding picture.

Mary said...

Wonderful photos of your parents Eleanor - I enjoyed reading their story. My mother and father met while serving in the Royal Air Force during WW2!

SilverBell Cottage said...

A lovely poem, and I love your knew banner photo. Hope you have a wonderful day/evening. Big hugs ~

Mary said...

Oh what a moving tribute to your father! My father's war included landing on Omaha Beach two days after D Day. He, too, never talked about his war experiences. They truly were the "greatest generation."
btw, LOVE that poem!

willow said...

Oh my Eleanor!! Your new thatch is on and your new header picture is fabulous! I think I'll have to stick around a bit to absorb all it's grandeur...

Eleanor said...

No, Willow. That is still the old thatch. Believe me I am still in process as they say. Raindrops, dusty and grass has been a-raining on my head. I will still post pics. This is just a new photo with sunlight streaming in.

Kathleen Grace said...

A very loving tribute. Your parents wedding photo is beautiful!