I've mentioned before that I published an ebook about my dad's World War II Diary. He was in the Fleet Air Arm of the Royal Navy and in 1943 he was sent out to an air base near Freetown in Sierra Leone, West Africa.
On New Year's Day 1944 it sounds like my dad and his pals had enjoyed their celebrations despite the equatorial climate and being hundreds of miles away from home:
"Rang in the New Year well and truly on the ship’s bell.
Nearly all the officers and ratings were in various stages of inebriation.
The first lieutenant vainly trying to drink someone’s health from a bottle with the top still on.
Foul taste in mouth this morning due to excess of port wine."
You can read more about it on my Tinned Variety Blog if you're interested in that era and the photograph collection is on our Spurwing ebooks website as well.
The ebook presents my dad's diary with a series of annotations I made. Like so many veterans of that war, my dad never talked about his experiences much when we were children. We knew he'd been to Africa and also to Australia and the South Pacific but that was about it. Sadly he died in 1978 taking his memories with him. It wasn't until many, many years later when the diary surfaced in an old suitcase in the loft that we began to get interested and the idea for I Think I Prefer the Tinned Variety was born.
Do you have a Smith in your family?
It's so frustrating at times when you're trying to fill out the details of the past and you can only manage to piece together a small part of the story.
We have a friend who had the prescience in 1969 to tape record his grandmother talking about her life when she was in her early seventies and had still got strong re-call of what had gone on. He's recently transcribed the tapes and published them as an ebook and it makes fascinating reading. His grandmother was Flo Smith and he's called the book Flo Smith - Now and Then.
My grandmother was a Smith before she was married but we're not related to Flo and her descendants.
My Smiths are very interesting too because they graduated from working as agricultural labourers in the early nineteenth century to being canal labourers by the middle of the century. My great grandfather Joseph Smith (1849 - 1923) eventually became a canal inspector with a house on the side of the canal.
On the other side of our family, Michael has Smiths as well. His great grandmother was Sarah Anne Smith (1854 - 1946) and her father was Daniel Smith whose occupation (in 1878) was a Thames Policeman. Presumably he would have been involved with the rescue and aftermath of the S.S. Princess Alice Disaster: the worst ever shipping disaster on the River Thames in September 1878 with the loss of over 600 lives. Staggeringly at the time, the Thames River Police were equipped with rowing boats and took ages to reach the scene. One of the outcomes of the subsequent inquiry was that the police were told to get steam boats.
I read somewhere once that everyone has a Smith in their family but I can't remember where I read it or find any supporting evidence on the internet. I wonder if it's true? Have you got a Smith in your family tree or is it just an urban (s)myth?
Happy New Year and all best wishes for 2014.