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My Father: One of the Forgotten Army

by Mary North née Sunderland

Contributed by 
Mary North née Sunderland
People in story: 
Philip Edward Sunderland, Nora Sunderland and me.
Location of story: 
Lancashire and onwards
Background to story: 
Article ID: 
Contributed on: 
13 May 2005

My father went to Burma before I was born. He was in the Royal Artillery 25th Dragoons, in a tank regiment. I was over 3 when he came home. We lived with my mother's parents in Heywood, Lancs. My mother had a photo of him in uniform which I was shown. One day we went to Rochdale station. My mother was wearing her purple spotty dress. I remember standing holding her hand and a train came in and I was surrounded by brown legs passing my ears. Then I saw a face I knew. They say I shouted "Daddy!" I can't remember that, but I know I sat on his knee in the taxi and my mother was crying. I think the shouting was true: my father told me again when I was grown up: it had meant so much to him to be recognised and accepted by the daughter he had not seen.

After that, we moved to Warwickshire. My dad was ill and in hospital with dysentery, and he had to have a lot of teeth out. He used to shout in the night. Then he went back to his work as a teacher, and I had a new sister.

He never spoke much about his time in Burma. I knew he had been in The Box, and that it had been too awful. The only things he told me were about finding a corpse in the jungle. The man had been tied down over bamboo shoots which had grown up through his body, killing him slowly. The other thing I knew was that his best friend's head had been shot off.

When he was dying of cancer, my dad said that he had faced death every day in the Box, and it held no terrors now in his bed at home.

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