Saturday, November 1, 2008
November 1, 2008
Eleven days before I depart on what may be called a trip of a lifetime. Or several lifetimes. My English mother was one of 6 girls born to a couple living just outside London. One of the sisters married a man, Alan George Albert Waddington, who eventually went to war. He became a Lance Corporal in the 5th Duke of Cornwall's Light Infantry, a battalion in the much larger 43rd Wessex Division. When my mother was a little girl, she would sit on his lap and tell him that when she had a little boy, she would name her son Alan. She did. She was 11 when the official letter came to the family home, regretting to inform of another who would not be coming home. She said it was the only time she ever heard her mother swear, calling Hitler "That Bastard"! Alan's son was one week old, having been born on November 11, the anniversary of the end of The War to End All Wars. The letter from the commanding officer came later, assuring the grieving widow that her man had not suffered, the CO arriving almost immediately at Alan's side shortly after he was hit and finding that he was already dead.
As a child, I did not like the name Alan. There weren't a lot of Alan's around in my school or neighborhood. Or so I thought. There were actually 9000 born in the U.S. the year I was born. It was different, though.Not like Jack or John or Bill. I am older and more aware of events outside my immediate circumstances now, but although not that unusual it was still only the 129th most popular name in the US last year. But somewhere, sometime, it began to dawn on me that I was named for someone who had died in the service of his country and at great cost to his family. I began to wear the name proudly and still do. I tried, spasmodically, for years to find our more about him and the regiment he was with, but it was not until the internet came along that anything much happened along that line.
A few years ago I learned that my cousin had never visited his father's grave. In all fairness, it is the grave of a man he never knew. And his mum remarried a few years after the war, and Uncle Bert became my cousin's dad, and a good one at that. But it still amazed me that, relatively speaking(no pun intended) my cousin lived less than 350 miles from the grave yet had never visited it. So we half way agreed that if I ever went, he would come along. Well, this is the year. On November 18 of this year, we plan to be laying a wreath at his father's grave.