Remembrance Day provokes a lot of strong memories for my family. My great-grandfather Alfred fought at the Battle of the Somme in World War I, and died during the 1920s of his gas injuries. And my grandfather Eric belonged to one of the Airfield Construction Units, part of the 2nd Tactical Air Force in Europe during World War II. This unit was essential in aiding allied aircraft to land and refuel for their missions across Europe.
My dad recalls a story about his father from eleven days after D-day in 1944. After traveling through Normandy to Eindhoven, his crew were caught out in the open when their airfield was attacked from the sky. Unknown to the allies, the air strike was led by three low flying Spitfires commanded by the Germans. They destroyed all aircraft and half of the personnel on the ground that day – my grandfather’s quick thinking saved him as he dived into a concrete pipe.
Inspired by Eric’s stories of his experiences in the RAF, my father followed in his military footsteps, joining the Royal Anglian Regiment. He’s been an avid fan of the Imperial War Museum in Duxford, Cambridgeshire since a visit in 1968, where he saw the filming of the Battle of Britain. This is also home to the Royal Anglian Regiments Museum.
During his military career, Dad led the changing of the guard as Drum Major at Buckingham Palace, and recently he was called upon to make a brief film appearance alongside Rupert Penry-Jones in The Four Feathers. The historic relevance of the regiments scarlet tunic, which the regiment still wears as its uniform, remains unchanged – it has carried the same pattern of the fleur-de-lis, crown and inch lace since the late 1880s.
One of my fondest memories is of Dad proudly presenting my grandfather (Eric) with his military medals, which he had previously lost. That’s what I’ll be thinking of this weekend, as we all remember our families’ heroes.