19 January 2014

My Dad

Frederick Richard Turner
1917-1992

Self portrait
Today, January 19th,  twenty-two years ago, my Dad passed away from a heart attack. I still miss him, although we weren't close when he was alive - I think because his generation were not brought up to be open and demonstrative. I wish I had told him more often that I loved him.

***

My Dad saved my life once - at least, saved me from what could have been dreadful injury.

I was about 5 years old, sitting on the back seat of our green Morris Minor car which was parked outside the house on a steep hill. It was a very hot day, all the windows were open and I was playing with a toy telescope.
Suddenly the car started rolling down the hill, slowly at fist, but getting faster. I leant out the window - screaming and banging the telescope on the door.
Dad had been upstairs in his bedroom (getting ready to go out). He ran down the stairs, jumped over the garden gate and managed to leap onto the narrow running board, reached in through the window and steered the car into the kerb.

I don't remember anything after that - though I think he had sprained his ankle.
At the bottom of that hill was a busy main road.....

***


Dad had been a Prisoner of War, taken prisoner at the fall of Crete (where he had earned the Military Medal. He had been the only officer left alive after a German plane had attacked his troop (he was only a corporal). He led the rest of the men down from the hills to safety.

While a prisoner he was where the Wooden Horse escape happened : they dug tunnels using a wooden jumping gymnast horse to hide where the opening was. At first they hid the removed sand and earth in bags above the rafters of the accommodation huts - but the ceiling gave way.
Dad had been sitting there moments before it caved in!


Eagle-eyed readers might spot a discrepancy between  the names on these two images (above) and my Dad's name. That's the same face - but a different name.

Dad was Fred Turner - but his official army papers and his war-time diary (which he kept as a prisoner of war) he was Rex Reynolds

and here is the real Rex Reynolds....

Flt Lt Rex Reynolds
You see my Dad was a hero twice over. While a prisoner the escape committee asked for volunteers. Officers did not go out of the camps with work parties, only the men (and corporals) did. It was much easier to escape while outside the camps - so volunteers to swap identities were called for.

While transferring from one camp to another Dad went into the train waggon as Kings Royal Rifles Corporal Fred Turner (yes, the same Rifles as Bernard Cornwell's Sharpe) - and came out as Flight Lieutenant Rex Reynolds.
Dad spent the rest of the war as Rex Reynolds. Had he been discovered he would have been shot.

The real Rex did escape - I always believed that he got back to England and carried on flying bombers, but I've recently discovered that he was re-captured.

After the war, Dad returned home, married my Mum, Iris Jones, and had three daughters. My sister Margaret, and Marilyn (who sadly died as a baby before I was born) and me.

He became a postman, then moved to a post-office clerk., where he remained until he retired - although in his last few years of work he became involved in setting up the Post Office Bank - Giro. Dad had one of the first accounts. Giro was eventually bought by Alliance and Leicester and then Santander. It would have been better to have remained the Peoples' Post Office Bank in my opinion.

***

I recall, as well, one time when my mum and I (and I assume my sister) were meeting Dad - I think in London, from work. We must have been going to a show or something, because I remember being very excited, and we were in our best clothes. I must have been about seven or eight. I remember it was dark, the street lights were lit. I said to Mum, 'Why are we waiting?' and she answered 'Because Daddy has to do his balancing.'
Well, of course, she meant balancing the books - ensuring the day's takings at his counter in the Post Office were accurate and tallied. Only I didn't know that.
I stood there for a while, puzzled, thinking it through, then said, 'I didn't know Daddy worked in a circus.'
I could not understand why Mum laughed.

***

The last time I saw my Dad, he waved to me from the emergency room in A & E.
I didn't realise he was waving goodbye.

He died before I became a published author; Kathy was only ten. He would be so proud of her now - and of his grandson, Tom, who went to Cambridge University and is now a successful engineer.

I miss my Dad.


10 comments:

  1. What a lovely article about your dad, sending hugs for you on this sad day x

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  2. What a lovely memorial Helen, and what a fine man. Both you and Kathy have a look of him.

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    1. One day when we get a chance to meet up I'll show you his war diary Elizabeth, he was so talented with drawing & woodwork - but never had a chance to follow his artistic dream. Incidentally, his mother was a bookbinder! I wish he was here now - one of his talents was making model tall ships - he would have made me such a beautiful replica of Sea Witch. I also wish he'd been alive that little bit longer to know I'd achieved my ambition of being published. If wishes were horses as they say... :-/

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  3. He would be proud of you Helen, though I find it hard to imagine he could be moreso than you are of him! This is a sweet post, and it's also full of wonderful historic detail. Thank you.

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    1. Thank you Petrea. My regret is that I didn't appreciate him more when he was alive :-(

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  4. A lovely set of memories, Helen. It was fascinating to read. And a lovely idea to do something like this. I may steal you idea and do one for my mum in August. She died in 1989 aged only 54. I miss her too.

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    1. Steal away Wendy - I look forward to celebrating your mum's life with you

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  5. Wonderful post, Helen. He must have been a remarkable man. Are the diaries detailed? My own dad kept diaries all the way through the war (Royal Navy) but filled them with total trivia. We only discovered his actual war record a good while after he died.

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    1. Thanks Dave - there isn't a lot in the Diary, but it has drawings of before and after of the roof collapse, things like Chistmas Dinner menu, a few every-day events. All the sort of things that the Germans could not object to or confiscate. Dad started writing his memoirs though (and I have a cassette tape of these as well) but I find them too moving to read and listen to, so I become an ostrich and bury my head. Dad was no writer, and he went through some awful experiences, the sort of things not really right for a daughter to dwell on. The information is there, though.

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