I’ll keep this brief, as this is not supposed to be a post solely to get views. Remembrance Day is very important to me, but I also just started a new job today, and had to mark my moment of silence while working. I don’t have a lot of pictures; My grandfather burned them after the war to spite the British.
In 1939, Austin Turner went to war. A youth, from middle upper-class gentry, and schooled in the British fashion, the reason he went to volunteer is unknown to us. As an Anglo-Indian, considered to be a “Non-Warrior” race, he wasn’t actively sought out. A sort of reverse racism. But nonetheless, as the Empire went to war against Nazi Germany, he found himself in military service.
Eventually, he found himself in the Western Desert, fighting against Rommel and his Afrika Korps as part of the 8th Army, the famous ‘Desert Rats’. In fact, he was an Engineer, helping clear the minefields of El Alamein.
Now this is where the story gets weird. He ended up as a navigator on an LRDG truck, (and in actual fact, this is where I got the name for this blog; Their unit motto was “Non Vi Sed Arte“, Latin for “Not by Strength, By Guile), and this is where the trail goes cold, and difficult to follow. He was in one of the English/South African patrols, according to family folklore.
He recalled serving in Yugoslavia, and was wounded in action in 1943. Returning to Egypt, he helped open a Singer sewing machine factory(which, if I recall correctly, is still there today!) and was quite a character in the Egyptian yacht community. Finally coming back to India in 1945, and in 1947 was bitterly disappointed with how Britain handled Partition, burned his passport and British citizenship, and became an avid Pakistani patriot. Running a salvage operation, breaking down ships, he finally died sometime in the 70’s from complications due to smoking. (My dad, who knows the exact date, is always broken up when asked, and for the sake of an internet article, I won’t ask).
This man, who I never met, was apparently a gruff, stern, built like a truck individual. The polar opposite of myself. Yet his influence on my upbringing was staggering. I spent much of my formative years tracking his progress across the Western Desert campaign, and told tales of his exploits to my schoolyard friends. His bayonet, ground down into a fighting knife during his posting to the LRDG, is a unique heirloom exclusive to my family.
My interest in history, the Second World War, and the Western Desert campaign all comes from a man who in 1939, went to war, and was never the same again. He was not alone in my family; A great uncle went to Burma, and was captured and worked in prison camps not far different then the Bridge on the River Kwai, and if I’m not mistaken, WAS actually where he ended up. My Grandfather on my mothers side didn’t serve, but worked in the news, editing articles and getting them up for the evening news.
My family now finds itself in two Commonwealth nations, remembering our veterans quietly, as to not take away from the fact we are honouring Canadian and Australian veterans in our respective nations. But we remember our contribution to the Commonwealth and Britain in general. While my Grandfather may have been bitter about Partition, he was still an outstanding soldier, and that is how I choose to remember him. As I do all my family’s veterans.
Lest we Forget.