As I approach my 72nd birthday I look back at those years with much to be thankful for.
I was born in London and my earliest memory of WWII was emerging from the underground station one morning with my mother to find that where my school [had been] there was just a smouldering heap of rubble.
Three weeks later my Dad was killed while working on trying to recover vital machines from a bombed factory. Within a month our house was also destroyed while we sheltered in the subway station.
We were lucky as we had relatives who lived in the country outside of London, and they found us a house, so we moved to Hemel Hempstead, 26 miles northwest of the city and far enough away from falling buildings and shrapnel that was the real killer during "The Blitz"
To be able to sleep in your own bed at night was a real luxury and the countryside with plenty of space became something beyond my dreams. I was almost 13 years old when on a sunny Sunday morning of 17th September 1944 the sky suddenly filled with aircraft.
We discovered later that this was Operation Market Garden and our town was directly under the collection point. To this day I can still remember so vividly the
sight of so many aircraft and the deafening noise. Little did I know then that the same men who were in those planes (C47s but known to us as Dakotas) would many years later become some of my best friends. Five years later I too would be in uniform and fighting another kind of war in the jungle of Malaya. The regiment I served with was the 1st Bn of The Suffolk Regiment, who were an assault battalion on D-Day and during Operation Market Garden were to tread the same ground as the 508th, namely Beek, Mook and Nijmegen.
In 1990 I went with around 50 British veterans to Beek Ubbergen and it was while there that I met with some veterans of the 508th PIR. Don Jakeway, Harry Roll, Dan Furlong and the late Ralph Busson were the first and we became instant pals, so much so we still keep in regular contact since.
In 1994 I was again in Beek when I met with O.B. Hill, again an instant friendship was born. That same year I visited Don Jakeway at his home in Johnstown, Ohio and we both attended the famed Busson Pig Roast up in Doylestown Ohio. In the year 2001 I attended the reunion at Tampa, Florida and by this time I knew so many 508 vets through their visits to England and Holland that I was becoming part of the furniture. By the wonders of e-mail I was also in regular contact with the late Walter Silver and his wife Jan, Liz Farrell whose uncle Martin Teahan was KIA on D-Day. The lasting impression I have of these veterans and their relatives is the quality of these people, they all seem to be that bit special, and I get the feeling that I'm with a group of people who will indeed go that extra mile if it will help a friend.
Much has been written about the 508th and they are rightly referred to as "The Greatest Generation" so any compliment that I have to pay seems insufficient, except to say, those same men in those planes I stared at in wonder 60 years ago, I thank the good Lord that they were on our side. May God Bless each and every one on them.