My son is working on a project for school whereby he has to research and write a short piece on a ancestor from the past. I have always been telling him stories about my grandfather, Thomas Scott, and how much of an influence he had been in my life so I was quite happy when he informed me that he had decided to do the piece on him.
My mother sent some old photographs over to help him out and I have to say on viewing them it brought back a lot of old memories of sitting as a young child listening to his war stories.
The man himself. This is from a newspaper clipping (Belfast Telegraph)
Aboard the HMS Hawkins. On the back of the photograph is written: "Taken at Buenos Aires."
Most of the pictures have my grandfathers writing on the back with some of the text having been scribbled out due to the obvious censorship at the time. However whoever did the scribbling did not do a very good job as I can still make out most of it. The first line I cannot quite make out but I believe it may be the name of the ship pictured. The rest of it reads: "Destroyer back from the Indomitable. Lost with all hands 4 days later."
This one reads: "Carrier Eagle, almost finished by Stukas today but came through OK. Was sunk few days later."
Reads: "Indomitable has near miss -something else I cannot make out- and then continues: "Destroyed 23 enemy aircraft today."
Attached with the pictures is an old newspaper clipping that may help put a couple of those images in context as it happens to mention the' Indomitable':
"German bombers took up the attack, and out of a heavily escorted convoy of fourteen merchant ships, only five,including the crippled US tanker Ohio, managed to get through to Malta. In addition to the Manchester and the nine merchantmen lost were added to the carrier Eagle, the anti-aircraft cruiser Cairo and the destroyer Foresight, while the carrier Indomitable and the cruisers Nigeria and Kenya were all damaged. It was a heavy price to pay but the arrival of even five of the merchant ships, and especially of the Ohio, enabled air strikes to be restarted from Malta just as Rommel was preparing his offensive to drive the allies out of Egypt."
When I was a young child traveling to his house in Holywood, Belfast, was always something I looked forward to. He was a kind, gentle old soul and always had a welcoming smile. One of my true joys of the visits was to sit beside him on his old couch and listen wide-eyed to his old war stories. I should mention that he wasn't the type that was constantly talking about 'the war.' To be honest, you would literally have to poke and prod to get anything out of him. He would rather talk about my latest comic book purchases and whatever movie I had recently enjoyed.
In conversation he never spoke down to me, treating me like a child, rather, he would listen and always showed a genuine interest in whatever I was babbling about at the time. He was also the first relative that I can recall showing genuine interest in my drawing abilities and I can recall that he had some serious ability in that department himself as I can remember him drawing on a couple of separate occasions some 'cowboys and indians' for me... the level of detail and draftsmanship still sits strong in my memory.
When he did talk of the war it always varied from the lighthearted to the rather sombre. Like most war veterans he had lost a lot of friends and you could always see it in his face or hear within the tone of his voice when he was getting to a rather sensitive area of the story. As I got older he would give me the full and unexpurgated version of the stories which sometimes led to his emotions getting the better of him.
He boxed while in the Navy and apparently never lost a fight and was also an avid weightlifter; even into his late sixties and seventies he still kept himself in good shape and would walk everywhere. He was a voracious reader with a book always in hand and a mug of coffee as black as tar in the other. He had quite a strong personality and didn't suffer fools lightly (a lot of those war stories involved various altercations and bar-room brawls) Maybe I'll save that for another post...
He died in 1989 at the age of 76 of a heart attack his wife, Elle, having died of cancer ten years previous. As I mentioned he was and still is one of the biggest influences on my life and I still miss his presence greatly.
I think he would feel quite honored that my son was doing a piece on him.