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Dancing Man

Page 2

Karen Lethlean

‘Uncle Bill did war service. Marched in a victory parade, or de-mobbing, if that’s what you call it.’ Mum’s slightly curled arthritic finger points at a screen now morphing from sepia to red, white and blues of largely Union Jack flags, as well as picking up multiple uniforms amongst crowds.

‘Your brother, Bill?’

‘No. He’s too young.’

‘But you said Uncle Bill.’

‘Meant your grandfather, William.’

‘Wasn’t he too old? For war.’

‘Department of Manpower reached desperation point. More men needed for troops. So your grand-dad lied about his age. Not everyone put their age up to enlist.’

I remember my Poppa saying, he got a medal merely for surviving. Seen his records too, couldn’t help myself, so many secrets were kept about war service. So one time at the National War Memorial, I took advantage of volunteers. Eager to help with record searches, record names, and show you how to access websites, be wonderful if staff where Mum lives could rifle through her memories and drag out interesting morsels for me to see.

Armed with Poppa William’s regimental number and rank, my assistant quickly got a spark in his eye. Especially when he found things not previously encountered.

‘Your grandfather is here, but wait, strangely records do not indicate a specific unit.’

‘Does that mean he worked in a regimental headquarters somewhere?’

‘Possible, but still should identify a unit of service. We can check despatches.’

Several minutes later, a well-thumbed file arrives, purple Gestetner ink, various paper lengths, foolscap featuring heavily. Yes, his name does come up in some rows of names, but too sparse to make conclusions. Confusion still reigns: ‘weird – not what I’d might expect to find, not what I’m used to seeing.’ My eager volunteer scratches his head, sending me back to the computers, but without a unit name, I am hitting a stone or rather a paper Defence wall.

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