WEEKEND WEB: Lest we forget

John Ward
John Ward
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WARD’S WORLD: By John Ward

It was a nice weekend recently weather-wise or at least the Sunday bit was, and the 1940s Weekend event was being held in Spalding, which seems to be getting bigger and better each year.

Among the many assorted stands and displays within this event was Dave who is really Rodney but I am given to understand it’s a sort of nickname thing, but anyway he was there doing his bit on a stand whose aims, showing my ignorance, I knew nothing about but once he explained all, I thought he and his fellow volunteers are doing a grand job and are to be congratulated.

I was unaware that there is no actual memorial to the many local lives lost in World War 2* in Spalding itself and Dave who is also Rodney, explained that a group to rectify this is the Spalding WW2 Memorial Charity although quite how such an omission of this scale has happened is strange.

Back to the plot then: Dave, nee Rodney, when he is not being Dave and fellow volunteers hope to get a Spalding WW2 memorial through donations and good luck to them.

It’s hard to believe it’s now over 70 years since this conflict ended but sadly, like the First World War, was also not the ‘war to end all wars’ as was expected and dreamed about as this horrid process still goes on under various guises, names and causes.

Coming from an age where I either worked or knew people involved, some of my family who fought or were just part of WW2 (not to mention I also knew those from the WW1 as in my granddad and his friends) and they have played a part in my life either by their very being or sharing their experiences with me that at times have been harrowing, uplifting and above all else shows the human condition can indeed ‘get stuck in’ when the odds are stacked against them.

Len was an amazing example.

In the seventies I had just joined the company, the day I shall never forget as starting at eight o’clock and making myself known, then by five past eight I was ‘paired off’ with Len as we were now a ‘team’ assembling precision machines.

He never spoke much apart from a few grunts as a form of communication, or moans about the weather and how his allotment would be affected, more so with his marrows etc and my concerns about Cliffie Richard getting to number one in the charts was met with total silence, so I assumed he was a Shirley Bassey fan.

I asked our supervisor/foreman as to why he ‘paired’ me with Len and his reply was short, to the point: “He’s a bit of a funny so and so and nobody can get on with him but he’s a damn good worker though.”

Thank you very much indeed for that, I thought.

One or rather a particular occasion arose that brought him out in his full glory.

A few weeks later somebody arrived as a guest to ‘get an insight of how the projects were processed and built’ as he was at university and was having time off to get to grips (?) with ‘how things were constructed’ basically and within a little while we both realised he had more degrees than a thermometer but no grasp of the real world and it showed.

A fuse in a plug needed changing and he thought we should fit a brand new ‘plug and wire thing’ and considering the standards of today with the same ‘over educated’ mentality perhaps not much has changed in the interim.

All went reasonably well if you like being patronised – we didn’t – but his being with us was just a process before going onto the next situation for him to kill time until he mentioned, and quite what had brought it on is a mystery even now, that: “Of course we as a nation should not be involved in events or war things that do not really concern us as it’s all quite pointless,” said Super Educated.

Instantly Len stopped in his tracks, his part-smoked cigarette dropped out of his mouth as he looked at Super Educated with cold eyes that said in basic terms he had indeed made bit of a boo-boo, indeed muchus bigga da boo-boo.

Len turned, went outside and came back walking slowly towards us and in his right hand was the large battered shovel we used to pick the swarf and metal waste up with.

He then threw the shovel at Super Educated’s feet and then he spoke the longest sentence I had heard come from him since my being there. “Right sunshine – I fought for my – no! – OUR country during the last real war and I lost a lot of mates or acquaintances in your language and if it was ‘all xxxxing pointless’ as you say with your super education, there is the shovel and I suggest you go and dig them up, then explain to their next of kin why they died ‘pointlessly’ according to you from the safety of your fancy books and daft ideas.”

I could tell that Len was upset – there were signs.

Super stood there and I thought he was going to burst into tears as Len carried on:

“I served in the infantry – I have been shot at, bombed, then nearly drowned in the D-Day landings but I survived to be wounded in my arms and leg but I was damn lucky – my mates paid the ultimate price and all to save this country so that out of touch pampered idiots like you can go yapping on about the rights and wrongs of the world?”

It was at this point that those within a close proximity to us who had overheard Len in full throttle, gave a rousing cheer and a round of applause and all of a sudden Len seemed to lose the ‘bit of a funny so and so’ label he had held for so long.

Super Educated turned and quickly walked away, muttering under his educated breath and we never saw him again.

Our manager came down shortly after to ask what had happened and Len said perhaps it was possibly ‘something that disagreed with him’.

Time moved on.

I left the company and some years later I attended Len’s service at the crematorium and as his eulogy was read I realised he was indeed a real, silent hero but he would have just said he did what he had to do, but certainly not a hero.

Present time then.

Blatant plug coming up as might I suggest if you have any spare cash about – it can and does happen – plus also check down the back of the settee or sofa, then perhaps donating it to the above would be nice and pop into Spalding’s Ayscoughfee Hall for further details.

I think Len, and his mates who never made it back, would approve.

*To those who spend their lives in a robotic trance gleaning everything from their hand held devices as to what size pimple to have, to somebody they don’t actually know who has just had a spot appear, the clue is in the words as in W-o-r-l-d W-a-r 2 or if still unsure, Google it.

Previously...

Given the ring around

Hole lotta problems for a beauty queen