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Once A Soldier, Always … My Father And Remembrance Day

My father, Bombardier Byron C Estey, Service Number G4094: Units: 1st Anti Tank Regiment: 90th Anti-Tank Battery, served in the Canadian Army for the entirety of the Second World War.

He was 31 when he signed up, and was a decade or more older than most of the soldiers he served with. At the end of the war, he was offered an instant promotion from Corporal to Sergeant Major. He declined. He had had enough.

He was with the 90th Anti-Tank Battery. He was the member of the crew who calculated the coordinates to aim the gun and destroy targets. He did this up through Sicily and Italy, except for those times when he grabbed his rifle to shoot at soldiers shooting at him.

I imagine I could write pages repeating the anecdotes he told – and maybe, some day, I will. He didn’t talk  much about the war and, when he did, I’d guess 80% of his stories were humorous. The other 20% were not.

I regret not discussing his war experiences more with him, but he did not encourage it. I once asked how close he got to the German soldiers. He said, close enough to kill them.

He hated Germans and Japanese all of his life. I understand that this is not the way of most soldiers. They mellow. They come to understand that soldiers on the other side were doing a job, just as they were. My father was not one of these. Those 20% of his stories explained his attitude to me.

He fought in – arguably – the most horrific and bloodiest battle in the war, the Battle of Ortona over Christmas week of 1943. He marched over piles of bodies, and crawled over piles of bodies. Such were the details he would tell. He didn’t speak of his feelings, or use words like “horror”.

On Remembrance Day he would march in the community parade. He rarely lingered for a meal or beer or camaraderie at The Legion. He did not seem affected by the memorial event, and did not talk any more or less about his experiences just because it was 11 November.

Because his tales were more funny than not, I’ll close on what might have been his last funny story.

At his death, the Royal Canadian Legion wanted to conduct a small ceremony at the funeral parlour. They requested that his medals be pinned to his chest. But, the medals could not be found. This was odd, because they were important to him, and he always wore them for the Remembrance Day parade.

It is excessive to say that the whole house was searched – but not by much. Drawers, shelves, boxes, closets, clothes, were repeatedly searched. Nothing. The Last Post was played over a Veteran with no medals.

Months later, when the house was being sold and possessions were being removed, his clothes were searched before being given away. In the side pocket of a jacket he never wore were the medals, all spiff and shiny.

He would have smiled at that.

Putin and Stalin Walk Into A Bar

~ Vlad, you murderous whore.

~ Josef, you cold, cruel killer.

~ Greetings and conquest be upon you.

~  My people are letting me down.

~ Oh – and a Happy Birthday!

~  You remembered.

~  Well, the way you’re going . . .

~  Yes?

~ It will be your last.

~ You think Ukraine can defeat me?

~ If it walks like a duck . . .

~  They are an army of pissants.

~  And quacks like a duck . . .

~  They survive on American guns.

~  And swims like a duck . . .

~  They were lucky to sink ships.

~  Vlad, listen to Uncle Joe.

~ Yes?

~  You are going to have to duck.

~ The Russian people will defend me.

~  Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin.

~ Yes?

~ Tzar Pretender!

~ Yes?

~ I know the Russian people.

~  Yes.

~ I slaughtered them by the millions.

~ Yes.

~ Enjoy your birthday – while you can.

DE  BA.  UEL

Putin And Hitler Walk Into A Bar

~ Vlad . . . Vlad . . . You have learned nothing.

~ Adolf – the times are different.

~  Oh, Mein Gott – the times I said that.

~ I’ve learned from you, Adolf.

~ Vlad – you can’t even take the fucking Ukraine.

~ They will fold.

~ They’re kicking your Kremlin ass.

~ I will regroup and . . .

~ You’re losing men. You’re losing guns You’re losing tanks.

~ I have imposed conscription and  . . .

~Tanks!  When you’re losing tanks – you’re losing.

~ I’ve got missiles that are carving them to pieces.

~ You slaughter civilians but you are losing troops.

~ I am getting more.

~ Vlad! I ended up putting children in the trenches.

~ They are valiant fighters and . . .

~  Vlad! Even I didn’t believe my own bullshit.

~  I am the new Tzar! I will prevail!

~ Vlad. Winter is coming.

~ Cold and snow isn’t going to  . . .

~ Vlad. I know about winter.

~ You did not have my power.

~ Holy Vladivostok. You are going to lose your whole country.

DE BA. UEL

As Europe Bakes & Burns, I Look Back To My First Time There

Solely because of the current, hellish weather in Europe, I hauled out my old travel diaries to take a look at what I was doing on this day so many decades ago. July 17.

I do remember some very hot days (though nothing like this week). I also remember the morning a month later, when I was walking through a long driveway, down from a mountain castle where the youth hostel was situated, and noted that Autumn weather had begun.

I obviously had time on my hands, for this day fills three hand-written pages. But since – oddly – it starts with a weather report, I’ll just record part of the first page.

July 17

A beautiful day erupted across the sky this morning blue clear sky and a budding sun sliding with a sultry manner into the waiting arms of the passionate heavens. It was, in other words, a nice day. And I took advantage of the whole majestic harrang** by leaving for the heart of the city around nine o’clock.

First business gotten out of the way was to buy a train ticket to Nurinberg**. It was interesting to return to Hanover Station , for in a way that’s where it all began, isn’t it? The fateful Sunday so long ago where the train was caught for Hamburg and on to the farm. It was much more pleasant being there the second time around, and I even succumed** and bought some plums in the small fruit store. They were the worst plums it has been my mis-fortune** to lay my taste buds on, and I threw half of them away.

I left the station and walked about the Square awhile, looking in the stores and wishing I could buy. But, it was enjoyable just looking around. At eleven o’clock I fulfilled one of the pet dreams which I looked forward to while on the farm. I went to a movie. Why this desire became so strong during these six weeks I do not know, perhaps a movie is a symbol of real civilization. Whatever the reason, I wanted to see one, and I did. It was, naturally, in German, but being a very sexy film, the language barrier did not make a great difference. As it was, I understood a lot more than I thought it would.

[By the by, excuse the writing, but I am on a moving train, and everything wobbles considerably.]

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

** I have edited nothing, and plan also not to edit if I ever do publish these long-ago writings. The “farm” mentioned is where I worked for summer employment.

T

Putin And Satan Walk Into A Bar In Kiev On The Way To Hell

~ Vladimir, Vladimir, who’s being a bad boy?

~ I protect all the Russias.

~ Who’s your daddy?

~ They tell me it is you.

~ Then don’t lie to your father.

~ Why?

~ It only makes the dark side darker.

~ But I must lie to get what I want.

~ And what do you want?

~ To be loved.

~ You are too vile to be loved.

~ Even by my father?

~ Who art in Hell. Hollow be my name.

~ I will at least make them respect me.

~ Or kill them in the process.

~ Of course – it is what they deserve.

~Tell me.

~ What?

~ What do you really want?

~ To be taller.

~ That sounds true.

~ My shadow stretches over the world.

~ Yet your body barely blocks the light.

~ I will be noticed.

~ You will be trampled.

Putin and Hitler Walk Into a Bar in Ukraine On the Way to Hell

~ Impaler, how are you doing?

~ Just fine, Adolf – how are you?

~ Missing the old days.

~ Why do you call me Impaler?

~ Vlad the Impaler – the perfect bloodthirsty tyrant

~ You were no slouch, Adolf.

~ Ja – but you are a good student.

~  Better than you, Adolf.

~ What makes you think that?

~ I’m going to win.

~ No – not possible.

~ Why do you say that?

~ I at least believed in something.

~ What was that?

~ Myself.

~ They know I am great,

~ You are despised, Impalier.

~ So were you, Adolf.

~ But I didn’t care.

~ But I am feared.

~ Not enough. Your reign will be short.

~ I have ruled for a long time.

~ But you used to know when to stop.

Putin and Trump Walk Into A Bar and Discuss the Future [UPDATED]

~ How much vodka did you have, Vlad?

~ Why do you ask, Donnie?

~ ‘Cause you’re reaching kinda far – even for you.

~ Are you jealous, Donnie?

~ Well, I had God on my side, and even I didn’t take this step.

~ You were a funny little president, Donnie.

~  You’re making me seem lucid.

~ So far – so good. Isn’t that right, Donnie?

~ What is good about this; Vlad?

~ I’m still standing,

~ For how long?

~ Until I am Tzar of all the Russias.

Note:

The title Tsar of all the Russias originated in connection with Russia’s victory in the Great Northern War of 1700-1721 and appeared as the adaptation of the Tsar ‘s title under the accepted system of titling in Europe.

Berlin A City After A War

germany_berlin_fuhrerbunker_2

[Site of Hitler’s bunker today]newnormative.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/12/germany_berlin_fuhrerbunker_2.jpg

I first visited Europe years before the Euro was the accepted coin of the realm. In fact, there were many coins of many realms, and all that money caused a fuss.

I kept a daily diary of this trip, and plan to make it a part of any memoirs I might write. So I’ve hauled it out and will make some blogs from it. But they will be greatly abridged.

********************************************

May 29

Our guide took us to an Observation Tower which overlooked the old section of Berlin (now, of course, in the East), and where the government buildings once stood. I saw a part of the Kaiser’s Palace in the distance (you must remember that these buildings are restored or being restored) plus other buildings from that era.

What was most interesting for me, however, were the structures that were so prominent in Hitler’s Thousand Years – the War Ministry, Gobble’s Propaganda Office, the Air Ministry and, the place where Hitler’s Chancellery stood., from which he unleashed so much destruction, and now no more than a grassy mound in a field. A mound remains because Hitler’s Bunker is still there. It can not be destroyed because it would do too much damage to the surrounding area to blow it up. I wonder how long this symbol of Hitler, this place so close to him, will remain – perhaps a thousand years? [2019 – it is still there]

We left the Wall (though the Wall never left us) and continued on our way. We went to a stone building and stopped before it. We got out of the bus and walked into a pleasant court yard. It was a memorial – a place called Plötzensee. It was here that many of the people in the unsuccessful revolt against Hitler on June 20, 1944, were executed.

How strange it was to be standing in this grisly place of history. It was a stark, bare, small room, like a clean little room you would find in somebody’s cellar. The hooks sticking from the ceiling from which people were hung were very real. Here people died, here members of the Gestapo stood and smirked, hands on hips. I had heard of places like this, and read books, and now I saw what it was like.

At Work And Play In Europe Long Before The Euo

1200px-seal_of_free_university_of_berlin.svg_

I first visited Europe years before the Euro was the accepted coin of the realm. In fact, there were many coins of many realms, and all that money caused a fuss. This was partially rectified by using Traveller’s cheques. And though Traveller’s cheques are still available, their use is not recommended, as so many places won’t even take them.

I kept a daily diary of this trip, and plan to make it a part of any memoirs I might write. So I’ve hauled it out and will make some blogs from it. But they will be greatly abridged

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

May 28

Berlin, a city (to say the least) that I had heard about, once upon a time. It’s most noteworthy fame, in my opinion, the capital of Hitler’s Germany. And the present, the only city cut in twain by a wall – that infamous wall which causes so much consternation. And I was landing there – and walking into history.

We eventually arrived at the Youth Hostel, or Red Cross building, or whatever it really was. It was a cold, grey, imposing stone structure that reminded me of a second-rate castle somewhere in the Alps. It was plain and simple, there was never any hot water. I was very tired and dead feeling, so I grabbed a bottom bunk and rested/slept for a few hours. I eventually roused myself and went to take a shower. I do not know how the Germans managed to do it (they manage to do many things), but they were able, by some device, to get their water straight from the head ponds of Siberia.

I went out for a walk after my shower, not so much to sight see as to thaw. I didn’t go very far, just looked in some store windows, and went down to the end of the road, a short distance really, for it ended quite quickly with an old, decrepit-looking wall. I thought to myself, that if this were all the East Germans had to get over, there wouldn’t be much trouble to do it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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