On this special day of remembrance I thought I would tell you about my late father’s family. There were five boys who all did their bit.
They all lived in Portsmouth – Crofton Road in Milton ‘village’ – with their parents William and Sarah. Their sister, my aunt, still lives in the same house.
Last Saturday I told of Norman Hind, known as Toby, who, as a 19-year-old Royal Marine landing craft helmsman took American troops on to Omaha beach in Normandy in the early hours of D-Day.
A brother, Edward, known as Jack, served in the Royal Navy in HMS Penelope. While in Force K defending Malta Penelope was holed so many times she was nicknamed HMS Pepperpot.
Another brother, William, was a guardsman before the war and in 1936 was a pall bearer at the funeral of King George V. On leaving the Guards, about 1938, he became a policeman in Basingstoke but at the outbreak of war he again joined the army, this time in the Hampshire Regiment where he became Lieutenant William Hind.
On December 7, 1942, en route to St Helena in the liner Ceramic, the ship was torpedoed south of the Azores in the Atlantic. Apart from her crew of 278 there were 152 civilians, 90 men, 50 women and 12 children. Apart from Sapper Eric Munday, who was rescued by the U-boat that sank the ship, everyone was lost. William is commemorated on the Brookwood 1939-1945 memorial in Surrey
Another brother, Harry, the family’s youngest, served in the RAF in the latter years of the war.
My father Horace (Horry or Jack) was a skilled man in Portsmouth Royal Dockyard. He was in a reserved occupation but that meant little. In July 1941, along with many other dockyard men, he left England for Alexandria, Egypt. He returned more than four years later on December 1, 1945.
His job was to repair naval shipping brought into ‘Alex’ and Port Said for repair after being in action and it was not until I spoke to a former colleague of his at his funeral that I learned some of the awful things he had to do.
When ships go into action watertight doors to compartments are closed. If that compartment was hit by a shell only that part was flooded. When the ship went into dry dock my father had to enter these compartments and remove the remains of sailors before repairs could begin. A grim job about which he never spoke.
Finally, my wife’s father Ivor Read was a Royal Marine who landed on Sword Beach in the early hours 75 years ago today.
They are now all dead which is why I will be on Southsea seafront today to remember them. I hope you will be.