What my Grandad did in the War Part 2

What my Grandad actually did in the war…

I’ve been digitising my Grandad’s old service book. You can see the whole thing in this Google Photos Album, but I thought I’d pick out a couple of my highlights in this post.

I was eight when my Grandad died, but I’m sure that by then I had begun to pester him with questions like “What did you do in the war?” The year was 1980 and I was reading comics like ‘Warlord’ and ‘Commando’. They presented a very one-sided view of the Second World War to me, one in which the British were the goodies and the Germans were the baddies who only knew two words in their collective vocabulary: ‘Nein’ and ‘Achtung’. Of course, 8-year old me has changed considerably, but back then I though the Second World War was glorious. We all have stuff to learn.

My Grandad never really answered the question. In fact, I don’t recall him telling me anything about the war. And we used to talk a lot. But I know now, especially having talked to my Mum (his daughter), that he never liked to talk about the War. I hope to find out some detail as I seek to digitise his diary in the next few posts, but I suspect the answer is all too simple: war isn’t glorious. It’s tragic and messy and terrible.

But back to the basics. What did my Grandad do in the war? As you can see in the image above from the centre of his RAF Service and Release Book, he was an RAF Balloon Operator. He served overseas from D-Day to late September in 1944 and then again from January to May in 1945. He was decorated with the 1934-45 Star, the France and Germany Star and the Defence Medal. He received the highest judge of character (V.G.) and the second-highest proficiency rating of SUPR. The page with the proficiency ratings is here:

All in all his service record is pretty good. I particularly like the personal comments from his commanding officer:

Very keen and capable. Intelligent, possesses good administrative ability.

Proud? Me? Of my Grandad? Of course I am.

What my Grandad did in the War

My Grandad Bill died when I was eight.

I knew that he had fought in the Second World War, but it was not until the end of my Nan’s life that I understood more about the effect it had had upon him and the impact it had on my family.

More about that another time.

In the top drawer of my desk, his Release Book and a little diary have sat for many years. Ensconced carefully in their wrapping they have hidden their secrets until now. That is, now I am hoping to digitise and translate them over the next few days and weeks. By digitise, I mean scan. By translate, I mean that Grandad’s delicate script on tissue-thin paper is a little difficult for me to read at times. But still, I’m going to give it a go. I mean to coincide the diary entries with the dates that they were written 75 years ago, and the first was written on 25th January 1945.

Firstly then, the Release Book. It is a standard Royal Airforce Service and Release Book and it looks like this.

Next post I’ll take a look inside.