Remembrance Day falls on the same day as Armistice Day this year, Sunday 11th November. This will not happen again until 2018. Somehow as I get older it seems more special. I listened to the BBC Radio 4 Remembrance Service at the Cenotaph in London today. It was very moving. There were 2 veterans of the Battle of El Alamein speaking. They were only 21 in 1942 when the battle occurred. It is recognised as a turning point in the war. After this victory at El Alamein, Winston Churchill would write in “The Hinge of Fate”, his famous verdict: “Before Alamein we never had a victory. After Alamein, we never had a defeat.”
My grandfather, Frederick Charles McCluskey was in the Durham Light Infantry with the Eighth Army and fought in this battle. He was one of the lucky ones, he survived. But he had a tough time in this war and it left him with Malaria, which recurred throughout his life, and dreadful foot problems from his long trek through the desert. He was part of the long march through the Western desert and told me that he wore out the soles of his shoes, then the soles of his feet on this trek. His friends wrote an obituary in the local newspaper after he died in 1988:-
“Tyneside war hero, Major Frederick Charles McCluskey who played a leading role in a legendary desert trek to freedom, has died at the age of 88. In June 1942, he and 200 men from The Durham Light Infantry’s 9th Battalion evaded fierce enemy fire to escape after being surrounded by a division of Rommel’s desert army at Gazzala, North Africa. They travelled 350 gruelling miles to safety. Major McCluskey, who lived in Newcastle fought in both world wars.”
I also found out that my grandfather who was born in 1900 enlisted in the army for the First World War. He was just 14 years 8 months when he joined as a Bugler with the Yorkshire Regiment. He served right through the First World War. After the war he joined the Durham Light Infantry and was with them throughout his career, ending it as a Major with a commendation for the MBE. He only left the army in 1952 when my much loved grandmother, his wife, was dying of stomach cancer.
In 1952 he bought a general store in Newcastle where I spent many happy childhood hours sitting by the fire in the back of the shop, or helping myself to sweeties.
I am very proud of my granddad and it is lovely to remember him today and all he did for our country.
I also remember my dad who was in the Royal Navy. My mum and he were married during the war in 1945