Thursday, June 25, 2009
My father, Bill, died yesterday. He was 89 years old, going on 90.
Dad was a pretty good example of how one can make a success of life, no matter what obstacles are in the way. He and his younger brother were brought up in a divided household, and 'dumped' in a workhouse at a frighteningly young age. He never spoke much of his memories of the place, but I know they were very bad.
Dad escaped from the workhouse in the depths of the Great Depression by joining the Royal Air Force at the age of 15 as an Aircraft Apprentice. He was sent to the innovative No. 1 School of Technical Training at RAF Halton, which numbers some of the best-known names in aviation history among its graduates (including Sir Frank Whittle, one of the inventors of the jet engine). He also applied for student and/or junior memberships of various prestigious British air organizations. In due course, these memberships were to be a contributing factor to his commissioning as an officer.
At the outbreak of World War II, Dad was the equivalent of a Lance-Corporal. I've described his wartime service and experiences in Weekend Wings #9, so I won't repeat them here. He finished the war as a substantive Flight-Lieutenant (equivalent to the US rank of Captain), and an acting Squadron-Leader (equivalent to the US rank of Major).
After World War II, Dad and Mom emigrated, first to South Africa, then (briefly) to Canada, then back to South Africa. They built a new life for themselves, including a doctorate apiece (not bad for two people who began without even the equivalent of a Grade 12 certificate between them!) They did their best, according to their lights, to raise their four children well. Some of their attitudes and actions were not very helpful, in retrospect, but they were the heritage of their being raised in the society they knew, during the stresses and strains of the Great Depression. Much can be forgiven them for that.
Mom died in 2005, and Dad's been waiting to join her. He told me many times that he didn't want to hang around any more: he was tired, and ready to go. His body began to slow down, but was in no hurry to 'shuffle off this mortal coil'. He was a tough old bird. If the Germans couldn't kill him in six years of world war, a mere trifle like old age would have to wait its turn!
Dad's long life came to an end yesterday. May Almighty God receive his soul into His mercy, and reunite him with Mom, and his wartime comrades.
I'll be suspending posts on this blog for a few days. I'll try to resume posting on Monday evening, 29th June.