Better for me to post an example, a photo showing Mum and Dad and Dad's family at Buckingham Palace on the day he was awarded his D.S.C in 1943. Mum said she wore red, but a red that clashed with the velvet seats of the Palace. My nan and Dad’s sister my Auntie Vi stood to the right, his older sisters, my Auntie Alice and Auntie Jess to the left. Dad did a full five year tour of service in the navy during the war, including the Russian conveys and the Sicily landings.
Mum and Dad’s home was bombed during the Blitz of the East End. Dad never showed any fear. He was an unassuming man and appears in my book Cockney Orphan as Vic Champion. Grandad had died just before this event and is the costermonger who appears as Bill Flowers in the Lizzie Flowers books. All my other East End books are linked to family in some way. So perhaps I’ll post more pictures that sparked the stories if you are interested to find out more? Let me know what you think.
This poignant article is by The Daily Telegraph’s ‘Taffrail’ who wrote about Dad’s Sicilian landings of his little fleet of LCI’s led by LCI 179.
“We hung by our eyelids,” began Dad. (Skeels) “And many were miserably sick.
It was worse by far than the long swell of the Atlantic.”
Taffrail continued; At 4.45.a.m. on the day of 179's great experience, dawn was beginning to break and objects on the hostile coast ahead were beginning to take shape. Filled with troops she was on her way ashore with a concourse of other craft. Soon after daylight shells from a coast defence battery were falling unpleasantly close. 179 beached herself and landed her troops, still under fire. Disembarkation was completed by 6.40.a.m. and the ship hauled off. Almost at once she was hit amidships on the port side of the waterline, the shell making a hole about three feet by two and a half feet. She tried to make water so was re-beached. The enemy battery had meanwhile been silenced by a destroyer; but not before the First Lieutenant and four ratings of 179 had been slightly wounded by shell splinters. It was surprising there were no more, as between twenty and thirty shells had fallen within twenty yards and the ship had been peppered all over by splinters. Lieutenant Skeels then set about repairing his ship. As a temporary measure the large shell hole was filled with blankets, duffel coats and fenders, anything they could spare, beg, borrow or steal. It wasn't very satisfactory so they asked another ship to cut them a steel plate and having borrowed a drill tried to heel the ship over to get the hole out of the water. With his ship still on the beach that was found to be impossible. But extemporising a diving helmet for working under water out of a service gas mask, with air supplied by a hand foghorn like an exaggerated bellows, they managed to bolt on the plate somehow. It was while this work was in progress that they found the shell - unexploded - still inside the ship.
"Then we hauled off and took her out for a trial," ended Dad. "It was quite successful; a good deal of water came in but it could be kept under by the pumps. However, to make quite certain, I went alongside a ship and they built us a cement cofferdam inside. Then we went to Malta who took a look at us, but said they'd plenty on their hands, that we would do for the time being and sent us on to Bizerta where we were finally repaired by an American repair ship. Those chaps made a thundering good job of it, welding on the big patch and the 275 small ones. The old ship looked like nothing on earth when they'd finished.”
Next week I'll post the pic for the inspirational real life characters for the Lizzie Flowers Family. XX