Category Archives: World War I

They f*** you up, your mum and dad. Example? My chum Lou, the gunman.

Lou greeted me with a small firearm yesterday

Lou greeted me with a small firearm yesterday

When I went to see my chum Lou at his flat yesterday lunchtime, the first thing he said was: “Ello, mate.”

The second thing he said was: “I’ve had a new machine gun delivered.”

All perfectly legal. Bullets can’t be fired from them. He provides them for movies.

“Did I tell you I found out who my grandfather was?” he asked me later.

“You didn’t know?” I replied.

“Well, I did and I didn’t,” he said. “Two or three years before my mum died, I said to her: Why don’t you tell me all the family secrets?

“She said: Well, I’m illegitimate. She was very ashamed of it. I said: Well, it ain’t your fault. It’s nothing to be ashamed of. Some people are born bastards; some people become bastards.

“Yes,” I said. “After my father died, my mother told me her father had been illegitimate. But, to our generation, it doesn’t matter at all, does it? My grandfather was born in the 19th century. My mother told me in the 21st century. It was a shameful secret in the early 20th century; by the end of the century it was just normal.”

“I asked my mother,” Lou said, “How did you find out? She told me: I was born in 1917 and my father came home from the War in 1918… Oh! I said. That’s why he used to knock YOU about and not all the other kids? She said: Yeah. That’s why she was partially deaf. He used to bash her.

“When she was 13, her sister said: Do you know who that man is? My mum said: That’s the tallyman – it was a bloke who used to turn up in a Rolls Royce every week or two. Her sister said: No, that’s your dad. He’s giving mum some money for you.

“I thought my mum said he was the Honourable Playdel Bouvier so I looked it up. I found the Bouvier family, which was President John F Kennedy’s wife’s family and I said to my mum: Oh, you’re illegitimately related to JFK’s wife. But I was wrong.

“I tried to find this one Playdel person and eventually it came up Did you mean Pleydell-Bouverie? So I pushed the button and there he was. The Right Honourable Sir William Pleydell-Bouverie, 7th Earl of Radnor.

Lou's mum and her Second World War medals

Lou’s mum & her World War II medals displayed on his wall

“This man didn’t have to give my mum’s mum money every week. If he owned the land she lived on, he could have just told her to fuck off. It was 1917. He would have been like a local god. He had huge amounts of money and nobody else had anything in those days. But he gave her money to raise my mum.”

I asked: “When did he die?”

“1968. I could have met him when I was young if I’d known.”

“Do you look anything like him?” I asked.

“I look more like my father,” said Lou. “And my son is more like my father than me. He’s just like his grandfather: a hard man.

“My father used to tell people that, during the Second World War, he dished out bullets and blankets. He said he didn’t actually fight in the War. After the War, he drank 50 bottles of Whitbread a day, because he was in the trade. He was a very dangerous man. If you touched him when he was asleep, he’d hit you and then he’d get the hump because you’d upset him. He was a very hard man to deal with.

“He’d tell me: Here’s some money, son, now fuck off. I could have any amount of money I wanted, but he wouldn’t put his arms round me and tell me he loved me.

“When he died, this bloke called Dosser Chapman phoned me up and said: I served in the War with your dad and I’m doing this scrapbook for the Lifeguards Association. Have you got any pictures of your dad?

“He said: Your dad was a wonderful man. I said: Was he? You shoulda tried living with him!

“This Dosser bloke said: No, no. We went rough the War together. He was a wonderful man. I said: You might have the wrong bloke, mate.

“Dosser said: We used to go on missions behind enemy lines. We’d say to each other: ‘You do it. No you do it. No you do it.’ And he would say: ‘Give me the fucking knife; I’ll do it’ and he’d go and kill a sentry.

Lou’s dad as he remembers him

Lou’s dad after the War

“I said: How many of these sentries did he kill? Dosser said: Well, I didn’t go on every mission with him, but I know he killed at least eleven men and he only ever got upset once. I said: Why was that?

“He said: He cut this bloke when this bloke was looking at his pay book. The pay book dropped.

“You don’t die right away when your throat’s cut. It takes about 10 or 12 seconds to bleed out. And, as the bloke dropped, my old man picked up the pay book and there was a picture of the guy’s wife and three little girls.

“He showed it to the bloke on the ground and the bloke looked at the picture as he died.”

“What happened then? I asked.

“Dosser said: Your old man started crying. So I left it about five seconds, then touched him on his shoulder and said ‘We gotta get on with it, mate’.”

“And then?”

He wiped the knife, Dosser told me, and then killed the next one. So I said: Nah! I said: My dad didn’t fight in the War.

“Dosser asked me to send him pictures of my dad and he sent me some. He sent me this picture of a group of them with my old man sat at the front and at the bottom, written in at the time, was HELL’S ANGELS. This was about 1942 or 1943.

“I said to my uncle – who was about seven when my dad was a teenager: I didn’t realise my father fought in the War and killed people. He said: I’m not surprised. He was seconded to the Long Range Desert Group. I mean, my God! They were a load of murdering bastards dressed in pink.”

Now there are children’s toys of the LRDG vehicles

Now children’s toys of the Long Range Desert Group vehicles

“Pink?” I asked.

“They used to paint their jeeps pink.”

“Because it merged in with the sand?” I asked.

“Apparently so,” said Lou. “My dad also won the King’s Medal. It was stolen with my mum’s wedding ring from the old Conservative Club in the 1950s when I was a tiny child.”

“Your father ran the local Conservative Club, didn’t he?” I asked.

“Yeah, from 1950 to 1978 and, before that, he ran another Conservative Club for a year and, before that, he was at a Working Men’s club.

Lou’s dad (left) behind the bar at the local Conservative Club

Lou’s dad (left) behind the bar at the local Conservative Club

“He was in the booze trade as soon as he left the Army, really. He gave up his driving licence and took to drink and then later he got pissed off with me cos I took drugs.”

“You were just doing weed, though?” I asked.

“Oh no, I got into everything.”

“But, at that time…”

“Oh yes, I was just smoking puff and he thought I was an awful person for taking cannabis and there was him banging back 50 bottles of Whitbread a day. For him, that was normal.”

“Literally 50 bottles a day?” I asked. “He wouldn’t be able to stand up.”

At home with Lou last night

Lou greets me at his home, 2012

“You would think so,” said Lou. “But he could drink that amount and seem sober. If you gave him one whisky, though…fuck me, he was a really dangerous cunt then. He would knock my mother about.

“His family owned half of Upper Brook Street in Winchester, a hotel, two hairdressers and a bar. It’s all gone now. Him and his brothers were very good at betting on one-eyed, three-legged horses and drinking. It all went.”

Yesterday afternoon, my chum Lou showed me a couple of knives he had made recently.

They have little holes bored in their hollow blades so the fake blood will spurt out when it is pumped through a tube when you pretend to cut someone’s throat.

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Filed under Psychology, World War I, World War II

2 diary entries 99 years ago at Gallipoli

I got to bed late last night. I woke up late. I have to go out soon. I am again pushed for time.

So here – for no logical reason at all – are two entries from an Anzac soldier’s diary written at Gallipoli exactly 99 years ago – in May 1915.

He was a signaller, born in London, and his name was Ellis Silas.

He moved to Australia in 1907.

He was aged 29 when he wrote the diary entries at Gallipoli.

He, of course, no longer exists.


1st May 1915

We are relieved from the firing line – the battle still raging; every nerve strained. Australians have done splendidly, holding a very difficult position; have been much troubled with snipers. Am glad I have done my duty.

First wash for a week – go down to the Water Hole, which is always covered by Turkish snipers – it was safer in the trenches than here – all around this spot are dead and wounded who have been hit when dodging round this corner; however, one must drink, even if the price be Death.

Make dug-outs in our rest camps, but men are continually caught by the snipers. Many are commencing to suffer from dysentery, though the spirit of the men is splendid, always ready for a joke.

Signaller Walker just hit in the mouth – we considered we were out of range in our dug-out but the snipers are everywhere. Sergeant of the machine gun is writing a very amusing diary, full of humour; I wish I had his spirit.

In the dug-out just above me a poor chap is lying very ill but has asked me to say nothing to the medical officer as he does not want to get sent away in the middle of the fun, as he calls it. Of such stuff are soldiers made – I think if I were in his place I’d be glad of an excuse to get out of this Hell, though I don’t think I should ever have forgiven myself if I had not come.

I hear that to-morrow we are going to make a charge – the Turks are cutting our supplies off; the situation is severely critical.

To read this in a newspaper makes an item of passing interest; to experience it is something quite different – if we are up against it, please God I may die in the same spirit that I know my comrades will display, for they know not defeat.

2nd May 1915

Our supplies are getting cut off – Turks have complete command of the roads through which we have to bring them – tonight we are to take the Ridge.

I wonder how I shall get on in a charge, for I have not the least idea how to use a bayonet; even if I had, I should not be able to do so, the thing is too revolting – I can only hope that I get shot – why did they not let me do the RAMC work? I have told the authorities that be often enough that I cannot kill.

One poor chap in a dug-out close to us was killed while preparing his meal; he has been lying there for two days – his mess tin full of tea, the charred remains of the fire he was cooking by, a few biscuits scattered about, his pipe by his side – we cannot bury him on account of the snipers; it seems no place is safe from them – efforts are being made to clear them out but it is a difficult job as we cannot spare the men to do it.

We are very hard pressed – we were to have had four days’ rest from the firing line but now the situation is so critical that at all costs the enemy must be shifted from the Ridge. Colonel Pope has aged much during these first terrible days.


Ellis Silas died in London exactly 57 years later, aged 86, on 2nd May 1972. 

So it goes.

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