A moving sunrise to sunset vigil at the Cenotaph in London on 23 October launched the 2014 Poppy Appeal. ‘The Watch’ was inspired by the repatriation of the Unknown Warrior in 1920 where Guards of the Watch kept vigil by the coffin.
I support the Royal British Legion Poppy Appeal each year, because I believe it’s important to remember the brave soldiers who fought in past and present wars for the freedom to live as we choose. I pin my poppy brooch with pride when I remember the stories of my grandparents.
This story about my grandfather, Kenneth Spooner, was retold by my mother. It reminds me what a rascal he was!
The night before my grandfather went overseas to Europe, he left camp to visit a friend (a girlfriend, perhaps). As he was late getting back, the police called at his parents’ house in Norwood Green in London. Luckily, Ken returned to camp just as the trucks were leaving. His senior officer was furious and said: “I will deal with you Spooner, when we get back.” My grandfather never saw him again.
They crossed over to Europe at night, though not at the Normandy beaches, Ken said he was landed further along nearer to Belgium. It was pitch dark, except for the explosions, and my grandad’s troop had to climb across several rafts tied together to get to shore. Once on the beach, they were told to fight their way to the ‘green light’ in the distance. Ken couldn’t remember anything after that, except all the confusion and running across the sand with explosions all around him.
His next memory was driving an armoured car through the forest, which he volunteered to drive so that he would always have a place to sleep. Ken’s troop had the task of flushing out any remaining pockets of German aircraft.
From his memories and nightmares, my mum thinks this must have been my grandad’s most frightening experience during his service. So it reminds me of his great courage.
Eventually Ken came to Hamburg which he said was flattened by bombs, and the German children came to their camp to get food and shoes. That was how he eventually met my grandmother, which is, of course, another story.
I will never forget what an inspiration my grandparents were and I hope they would be proud that I wear my poppy today.