- Contributed by
- BBC Southern Counties Radio
- People in story:
- Mrs Wendy Heading
- Location of story:
- Article ID:
- Contributed on:
- 13 July 2005
This story was submitted to the people’s war site Lyn Wedge from Littlehampton Learning Centre and has been added to the website on behalf of Wendy Heading with his permission and he fully understands the site’s terms and conditions
Where Are You Daddy?
Sitting on the steps of our house in Windsor sometime in the summer of 1944 I can remember feelings of almost unbearable excitement. I had heard my father talked about by my family every single day of my life but had no real memories of my own of him as I had been born in 1940, just after my father had gone off to war.
Occasionally letters had arrived and we all attended the opening like some kind of sacred ritual. I was the youngest of four children each of us hoping for some small personal message from our hero.
Now and again as my legs ached from sitting in the same position, I would get up and swing on the iron railings but would soon get bored and return to my place on the step from where I could keep my vigil. My brothers and sister would come out every now and again and say something like “he won’t be here for ages yet” but I ignored them as it seemed to me that the only thing that mattered was that I was the one who saw him first!
I knew he was a hero because he had been wounded twice. He had been hit by shrapnel, small pieces of which were still embedded in his leg, and then he had been hit in the arm. One of our neighbours had laughed when she heard this news saying “well, the wars over for him, the lucky devil” and I think all four of us would have liked to hit her.
Suddenly the thought struck me that he might not know me. Then even worse, how would I know him? I propped up my doll against the step, either to keep the vigil or to let him know if he arrived before I got back that I had been waiting. I rushed up the steps and another steep flight of stairs to my mother’s room. Opening a drawer I found the old chocolate box where all the photographs were kept. There were pictures of old people, weddings and babies but I knew I had to search for an army uniform. Yes there it was. He had a handsome smiling face and was standing with his arm around my mother and she was wearing his uniform hat with the big Royal Artillery badge. He seemed to me to be taller and more handsome that anybody else’s daddy that I knew. I slipped the picture up the sleeve of my cardigan.
I ran, breathlessly, back down the stairs and took my place back on the step. A glass of milk and a sandwich was sent out to me but I was far too excited to eat it. The morning and afternoon ground on so very, very slowly. Gradually I felt myself falling asleep but as people passed they smiled and said “you still waiting dear? Never mind it won’t be long now.” I kept rubbing my eyes and sucking my thumb until the skin was sore.
Suddenly a khaki clad figure rounded the corner. I shrieked, “He’s here, he’s here and I started to run. I was so tired by the long wait that before I got to him my chest felt as though it was about to burst and my knees ached. I had to keep going though in case one of the others got there first. The khaki uniform strode towards me and I spread out my arms ready for the meeting; the soldier did the same; I could hear him laughing. He swept me up- up to a great height whirling me round then placing me on his shoulder. Now I was facing the other way and I could see my mother and the rest of my family… just standing there laughing. Why weren’t they running too? The most terrible confusion came over me……… Something awful was happening. Yet the soldier was still laughing. How come, I thought, that he has two arms and no sling. Soldiers who were heroes always had bandages and a Red Cross tie. “Well” said the voice from below, “my, my” and he lifted me down so that I was face to face with him, “and who’s little girl are you?”
I struggled, clawing at his face, kicking furiously, twisting to get out of his grasp; he dropped me quickly. I sat on the ground looking up at the long legged monster man. I scrambled to my feet sobbing inconsolably. Reaching my mother I hid behind her skirt peering round her in terror and confusion. The monster man came nearer.
“Hello Jim” said my mother smiling at our neighbour’s soldier son. “Nice to see you home. How long have you got?”
“Just a forty eight hour pass,” he answered “then off to Ireland for some training.” He looked down at me grinning. “Littluns a bit of wild cat” he said showing off his scratches. “Never mind… Tom will soon sort her out when he gets home”.
My daddy did arrive home later complete with Red Cross tie and sling. We kids were so proud of him. Sadly though our parent’s marriage never did survive the separation caused by the war. Nothing was ever the same again and despite my hero worship of him, he and I never managed to form any kind of relationship and yet, strangely enough, I still miss him sixty years later.
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