· Remembrance ·
Veterans Day was celebrated a few days ago. This year the remembrance hit me harder than expected.
It started early on Saturday when a friend from across the pond, Sean McArdle, asked me if we celebrate on the 11th of November. He told me that in the United Kingdom they refer to it as Armistice Day, the day the First World War ended.
He said, “It’s the day we remember all the fallen servicemen and women from 1914 onwards and a minute’s silence is held at 11 a.m. all across the country. It’s very moving and people in shops and in the streets stand still and bow their heads.”
Sean went on to tell me that the Sunday following Armistice Day is called Remembrance Sunday. That’s “when all sorts of people go to the Cenotaph which is near Parliament in London and the Queen lays a wreath there to commemorate the dead, again we have a one minute silence.
“The ceremony is the only time the Queen bows her head as she lays the wreath; it’s a tradition.”
I started thinking of my Great Uncle Cecil Crandall. He was a World War I veteran who had been partially crippled when his unit (Corp, Co. I, 353rd Infantry, 89th Division) was gassed during the Meuse-Argonne offensive.
And I thought of my dad.
I looked up on my bookshelf and saw his photograph, a young man in dress uniform, probably taken in 1941.
I told Sean that my father had been stationed in England as Allied troops filled the country, waiting for the day they would cross the channel to fight in occupied France.
Sean asked me where my dad had stayed when he was in England. After some research I remembered the Lloyd Wynne family in Llandudno, Northern Wales.
For the rest of my dad’s life he recalled the Wynne family with great fondness for their generosity during the summer of 1944.
Harold L. Potter, 1st Lt., Fifth Inf. Div., Third Army, medical department, supervisor of evacuation of combat casualties in the European Theater, was a combat medic who served in five military campaigns. (Formerly with the 35th Division, he was a Pvt. in the medical detachment, 130th Field Artillery, when it mobilized in Hutchinson, Kansas, Dec. 1940.)
In one letter my mother explained to the Wynne’s that he was in the “very thick of things.”
I remember my father explaining to me that part of his job was to make sure the five ambulances and their crews under his supervision kept their distance from one another; they didn’t want to lose more than one in case of Axis bombing.
Sean told me how his father, Bernard McArdle, known as “Mac,” was in the Royal Navy at the start of the war but gave up his rank to join the Submarine Service. Mac, an electrician, held the rank of Chief Petty Officer (CPO).
Sean said that switching, “wasn’t such a clever thing to do for promotion but he enjoyed it; unfortunately his sub was sunk by the Germans near the start of the war and he spent five years in a POW camp! At least he was alive.”
I shared with Sean how my father was able to return to the states after Germany surrendered, but it was understood that the servicemen and women were to be trained to fight in the Pacific Theater for a probable invasion of Japan.
It was during my dad’s military leave that Hal and his fiancé, Nell, were married in Galesburg, Illinois, and honeymooned out west, staying for a while in a wilderness cabin (no newspaper, no radio) in Colorado.
When, after several days of isolation, the newlyweds went to town for provisions and a haircut for dad—Hal was wearing his uniform as per military code—he was mobbed by the locals.
They showered him with questions about the war and the planned invasion of Japan. This was right after the newspaper headlines reported atomic bombs had been dropped on Nagasaki and Hiroshima.
He had no idea what they were talking about!
1st Lt. Potter had not been sent to the boonies by Washington, D.C. with orders to keep the local populace updated on top-secret military operations.
In closing, I think of more recent times, more recent wars, and more recent veterans.
Thanks to Mike Potter, my cousin, who served with the 1st Battalion, 161st Field Artillery Regiment, Kansas National Guard. Staff Sergeant (SSG) Potter was stationed in Iraq at Forward Operating Base (FOB) Grizzly in 2007-2008. He was a liaison officer (LNO) at Balad Air Base.
Until next time, happy writing and reading!