|Dad, on the left, rampaging through Belgium, commandeering German equipment in-between sleeping with princesses|
My ol' man was a terrible father but a great soldier. He went from Private to Lieutenant Colonel in WW2 and was commissioned at the request of King George VI and further promoted at the direct recommendation of Monty.
He was rescued by HMS Skipjack at Dunkirk, which was sunk the next day. He was disgusted at the leadership of the army at that time, which largely comprised ex-public schoolboys placed by their fathers, schools or starry-eyed generals despite lacking any aptitude for their roles. After Dunkirk there was a significant clear out of these people, which gave people like my ol' man a chance. He was at El Alamein and then D-Day, where he rampaged to Belgium.
He boasted loudly to me and my brother in a Belgian restaurant in the 90s that a certain Belgian princess was an 'old slapper'. We remonstrated with him and he responded: "Even I slept with her..."
After he left the Army he refused an MBE. None of us believed the latter, but my daughter found the records online.
But the thing that impressed me the most was his story, which he has written down, and which I mean to translate into usable English, about Monty's request that he find a route into the USSR from North Africa for a possible retreat should Rommel push us back.
It is a fantastic story of getting a platoon of men through exotic middle-eastern places, and over geographical boundaries, eventually reaching and passing into the Soviet Union.
However, there was one major drawback. And it was pretty big. Nobody had told the Soviets. So when the ol' man pitched up to some Soviet army base expecting a warm welcome and pint of vodka, he and his men were immediately arrrested as German spies. Even this bloke from Hoxton couldn't get past the famous Soviet distrust of anybody, even each other.
He was invited into the local commandant's office to discuss the situation. But rather than a discussion, he found out at the end of the cosy chat that this was, in fact, the trial. The translator, who grew up in New York, told him him: "Jeez, I feel sorry for you guys, but at least it'll be quick." They were to be shot the next day.
He and his men were locked up with some Kurdish prisoners, who had been planning an escape. I don't know the detail of this until I make some real effort with the ol' man's manuscript but somehow the Kurds got themselves out, and my ol' man and his men, and they all made a break for the border.
One of the reasons I found my dad hard to deal with was his hypocritical racism. He was opposed to the UK accepting Ugandan Asians into the UK, for example, but made a fortune selling them refrigeration equipment they bought with Government and other grants, and made friends with many but criticised them being here behind their back, as so many British people did (and still do).
But if you said anything against the Kurds...