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My Dad and the war.

(86 Posts)
tanith Sun 03-Dec-23 16:01:02

I’ve just watched ‘The Great Escaper’ with Micheal Caine and Glenda Jackson such a very poignant film.
It reminded me of something that’s puzzled me for years and thats what my Dad actually did during WW11 . He wouldn’t talk about it the only thing he ever said was that he drove heavy lorries in and out of the docks. He was born 1914 so would have been of age to fight, as far as I know he was fit and healthy so why wasn’t he in the forces. My Mum and my sisters were evacuated twice to the country but always returned to London.
Could it have been a reserved occupation or something else I’ve no idea.
Any suggestions?

Aveline Sun 03-Dec-23 16:03:51

Maybe he was in the forces? Did he say he wasn't?

tanith Sun 03-Dec-23 16:13:59

Aveline he never said he wasn’t to me but there was nothing in his belongings to indicate he was when he died and I can’t find him in the War records although his father is there having served and died in WW1.
I’m just puzzledled!

Septimia Sun 03-Dec-23 16:15:34

See if you can find him on any of the genealogy websites, military records websites or the 1939 register (which will tell you what he was doing immediately before the war and might give you a clue). Some of the sites are free or free for the initial search which might set you on the right track.
My father wanted to join the RAF but wasn't allowed to as he was in a reserved occupation - building tanks.

Marmin Sun 03-Dec-23 16:15:34

Dock workers were a reserved occupation in WW2.

biglouis Sun 03-Dec-23 16:15:48

My father was a casual worker on the Liverpool docks which was a "reserved occupation". He did eventually get called up in early 1944. He never spoke much about the war except to say he was in the navy and was torpedoed twice while serving in in the Far East.

My grandmother told me that young men in reserved occupations were often regarded with hostility by those who were immediately called up. It left them free to play around with other men's wives and girlfriends, which is how my father met my mother.

In contrast the man my mother was engaged to marry volunteered as soon as war was declared in 1939 and joined the army. He was wounded in action and mentioned in dispatches. My mother jilted him when she became pregnant by my father.

This is probably the reason why my biolocal father never spoke about the war.

Septimia Sun 03-Dec-23 16:17:12

We know that my father in law was doing things in Greece and Yugoslavia but, because it was hush-hush the records won't admit to it!

biglouis Sun 03-Dec-23 16:17:50

biolocal = biological

tanith Sun 03-Dec-23 16:24:15

Thanks everyone it seems he was indeed in a reserved occupation then. I’ll have to settle for that.

lemsip Sun 03-Dec-23 16:38:16

yes, it would've been a reserved occupation as he worked in the docks.

my father was a tram and bus driver in london during the war.

have you looked for him on the 1939 index on ancestry

LovesBach Sun 03-Dec-23 16:42:23

My uncles worked on the Thames during the war; it was important to keep goods coming into the country, and they were often under fire. The bombers followed the course of Thames and tried to hit the docks constantly. It was certainly no picnic, and one uncle later died from skin cancer, which was said to have been contracted by working with petroleum and getting it on his skin daily. Another uncle was a policeman in London; he too had a risky and often terrifying job. Reserved occupations were certainly not easy in many cases.

Germanshepherdsmum Sun 03-Dec-23 16:43:57

It was important to have men working at the docks tanith. Women took over many men’s jobs but few, if any, would have had the strength required of dock workers and drivers of heavy vehicles. Many men in reserved occupations would doubtless have liked to join up but the government recognised their importance to keeping the country going. Any hostility shown towards them would have made their lives very difficult, but without their contributions on the home front women, children and the elderly would not have survived. Don’t let the fact that he didn’t fight diminish him in your eyes - my dad couldn’t fight because he was blind, and his inability to do his bit affected him greatly.

LOUISA1523 Sun 03-Dec-23 17:03:20

My GD was a train driver.....he was never called up ....his trains took him to Liverpool ( he lived in Leeds)

LOUISA1523 Sun 03-Dec-23 17:03:40

GF not GD !

luluaugust Sun 03-Dec-23 17:13:18

My dad also couldn't fight due to a medical condition but he was in the army and sent wherever the most bombs were falling to clear up afterwards, including dealing with those who had died. My mum was in a reserved occupation to do with medical instruments, not everyone went abroad to do their bit.
The 1939 Register is very interesting to see who was where as war broke out.

Cabbie21 Sun 03-Dec-23 17:19:34

My grandfather died in 1918 mot long before the war ended. . He was in the RAMC but never saw action as he died in training because of a faulty gas mask. Do I think any the less of him? No. His work as a Salvation Army Officer had involved him in supporting many families and people doing war work of various sorts. His death was a loss to the community as well as to his wife and children.

Georgesgran Sun 03-Dec-23 17:45:44

My Dad. A Sergeant was in the RAF and served in Gambia, where half died of malaria and also was in Germany.
Mum, a Private, joined the ATS, where she was the Baby of The Battery operating radar on Romney Marshes.
I have both their badges.

Bella23 Sun 03-Dec-23 18:35:22

My dad volunteered at 18 for the Navy and was an ordinance artificer on anti-aircraft guns on landing craft at D day aged 21 He never talked about it. We found his old papers and he had been in India with American and Australian troops about to invade Japan when they dropped the bomb.
My mum was in a reserved occupation a confectioner and baker her sister was sent to munitions factories at Bootle and came home with bright yellow hair.
My FIL was in a reserved occupation an electrician,he spent a lot of time in the Vickers Armstrong works in the Northeast mending the electricals that had been bombed, and the houses down on the Tyne.
I think reserved occupations were as important as the people who were in the forces, many of whom never talked about it.

tanith Sun 03-Dec-23 18:42:39

Thanks everyone it’s interesting and informative to read your stories, I’m very proud of my Dad whatever task he undertook during the War.

V3ra Sun 03-Dec-23 18:51:45

My Grandad worked in Portsmouth Naval Dockyard so that was a reserved occupation.
The area was a bombing target, and when I went past the dockyard to get to school in the early 1970s there were still bombsites in the area.

The declaration that we were at war with Germany was announced on my Mum's 7th birthday, 3rd September 1939.
My Grandma used to tell us she heard it on the radio in the kitchen and said, "Now we're for it..."

Mum could have been evacuated but Grandma kept her at home. She decided if they were going to be hit, they'd all go together.
Thankfully they all survived 🙏

Whiff Sun 03-Dec-23 19:06:49

My dad serviced in the South Staffordshire regiment during WW2. He was in Egypt,Burma ,Indian and parachuted into Naples during the plague. Dad said he was hooked up and was told to bend his knees on landing before he was pushed out.

Dad was very proud to match every remembrance day. Dad could have had 4 campaign metals but he wouldn't claim them . He said medals should only be for acts of bravery and courage not for doing what they where ordered to do. He told us funny stories what happened. But he hated people who reveled in what they did to the enemy . He said they did what they did to fight for freedom and a way of life. They followed orders.

He had great respect for the Gurkhas and the ,Chindits . And you always made sure your boots where laced the British way and the Gurkhas would crawl through the jungle and feel the laces of the sleeping soldiers if it wasn't the British way they ham stringed them.

He was angry the Gurkhas never got the same benefits of the British soldiers and their wives and widows.

Dad's legs where in a terrible state from leeches . He was malnourished as a child and joined the army when he was 17 . Because the food got spoiled because of the heat in the army. He had a big ulcer when he was 28 . To big to removed so they made his stomach smaller using mesh.

My dad was proud to service his country and he never told my mom what he did . He only told us he got stabbed in the back in Cario when my daughter was doing about the second world war in primary school.

I have an uncle and cousin who both served in the army. My uncle served many times in Northern Ireland during the troubles he would never talk about what happened. My cousin was in the royal engineers and worked in war torn countries but he was like my dad and uncle and didn't talk about what he saw.

MerylStreep Sun 03-Dec-23 19:21:31

My father was on what Churchill described as The worst journey in the world
He was 19yrs old and a signalman on the Russian convoys.
At the same time my mother was assembling munitions in what was known as the danger buildings in the Woolwich Arsenal.
Those buildings were directly next to the Thames.

Romola Sun 03-Dec-23 20:14:06

My father-in-law was also in a reserved occupation. He was headmaster of the grammar school in a market town in East Anglia. There was a London school evacuated there, which shared his school, not an easy arrangement. He was also an air raid warden at night.
In a way, DH was lucky in that both parents were there and not in harm's way. But they were so busy that there wasn't a lot of time for children, who ran wild, fighting with the evacuee schoolboys and stealing food because they were always hungry.

annodomini Sun 03-Dec-23 20:36:53

My father was in a reserved occupation, in a factory that made explosives. Many of the men in our neighbourhood worked for the same company in similar jobs, so there was no stigma in having a reserved occupation. He was also Captain of the local Home Guard and later in life was a fan of Dad's Army which he said wasn't too far from the truth!

paddyann54 Sun 03-Dec-23 20:50:33

My dad was in the Navy ,he never spoke of his time at war ,all of my uncles were in the Army ,two were among the Scots regiments left behind on the beaches ,one had a leg blown off in a parachute jump.all came home with mental and physical disabilities .NONE wore poppies ,none visited cenotaphs .
The uncle who lost his leg had nothing but praise for the German POW camp who fitted him with an artificial leg and cared for him ,the others had a very bad opinion of the competence of Churchill all of which I discovered when asking for help with an essay in the 60's .
That was the only time I asked about their war ,I understood it was a painful subject .My dad couldn't stand the type of men who revelled in war stories he said it was bad enough to live through without glorifying it like a bad novel
The continuing obsession with WW1 and WW11 is in my mind very strange ,surely we should be leaving it in the past and trying to STOP war happening again.