A FARM BOY'S WAR

We will remember.

As I will be involved with the Burrum Heads Remembrance Day parade, I thought I would answer the question, “Who's that lowering the flag?”

I have been involved with Remembrance Day parade since the age of 14, having been to Flanders Fields, in Belgium, with my school in 1950 and playing in the village brass band at the parades.

I have since played most years somewhere, including Australia, -Tasmania, Melbourne and Geraldton to mention a few. It’s nice to come to Burrum Heads and still be involved in a day that has become more important as I have grown older, realising how the day to remember was to those who came back, and it’s helped me in my work and community involvement.

I would like to know what the young people think of Remembrance Day, not personally remembering any war. Most of my war memories are pleasant ones, being two years old when the war started. We spent a lot of time when the siren went off (ours here on Mondays makes me shiver, it sounds a bit like the “all clear” in our shelter (a pantry, a walk in cupboard with the window covered up with earth to the ceiling height). After the war it was great fun moving the earth away. We had a tractor by then that I could drive and we had the equivalent of double daylight saving, two hours I think. In the song The White Cliffs Of Dover, the line with the little boy going up to his bed after the war is me.

I like to think I can remember the Battle of Britain when I was about three, we lived on farms half way between London and the Brighton coast, so we saw lots of air battles. As children we picked up spent shells and (although always being told not to do it, as some might be ‘live’) silver paper (tin foil) which we made into decorative Christmas chains. The tin foil was dropped by the Spitfires to confuse the German radar. We had one dead German on our farm who had parachuted down, and my dad marked the spot with a log. We did not stop work on the farm and got caught out some times, one time being when my Dad got saved by a Spitfire pilot who used his plane to tip the wing of a ‘doodle bug’ (flying bomb) that was coming down in a field where he was working.

On taking the milk to the top farm on a weekend in a horse and cart, a doodle bug came over & it was being shot at by all the big guns on the hills around us, so I stopped and got under the cart to hide from the shrapnel. I have been asked since, what about the horse? I did not think of it then. I played in the woods (bush) with the Canadian army as my friends, climbing in and out of tanks, taking home dummy mines given to me as a laugh by the soldiers to give my Dad a bad shock. These soldiers made me whistles out of hazel twigs that changed tune due to a part of the bark being loose. When it came to harvest time the Canadians came with their six wheelers and did in a day what would have taken us a week. The soldiers stood me on the driver’s seat and I liked to think I steered through the stalks of corn. On our bottom farm where I lived, we had neighbours who had Italian prisoners of war working there, and my Mum made me smoko to go and have with the men - it would have been across two small fields with hedges, well out of sight of the farm house. My Mum has been asked in later years why she let me go. She said I would be looked after as their own. They missed their own family. We had a German prisoner we passed on the way to school. He lived in an old oasthouse as the ‘cowman’ and he told us he did not want go home. We received so much from the people coming back from the war. A man got off the bus in our village and walked through the field playing music, and waved to the children, and when he sat down to tea, the children he had see in the park sat down too. The man turned out to be our Band Master of our new village brass band and his children became top musicians… and we played on Remembrance Day for years to come.

               DormanslandBand   

                                           ……….. Richard Thorne

 

They shall not grow old,

As we that are left grow old.

Age shall not weary them,

Nor the years condemn,

At the going down of the sun,

And in the morning,

We will remember them

    poppy 150 x 169