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15 October 2014
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Contributed by 
BBC Southern Counties Radio
People in story: 
Fergus Cashin
Location of story: 
Ardennes
Background to story: 
Army
Article ID: 
A4811861
Contributed on: 
05 August 2005

THIS STORY WAS SUBMITTED TO THE SITE BY MICHAEL CASHIN, ON BEHALF OF HIS FATHER, FERGUS CASHIN, WHO HAS GIVEN HIS PERMISSION TO ADD HIS STORY TO THE WEBSITE AND UNDERSTANDS THE SITE'S TERMS AND CONDITIONS.

My father, Major Fergus Cashin, was in the Queen's Own Cameron Highlanders during the 2nd World War. A Captain in the 5th Battalion. He was a platoon commander who fought through the Ardennes and one month before the end of the war was fighting the Germans on the edge of the Rhine.

On this fatal day, they were resting in the mess, set up in an Estate house in the village they had just captured. As part of the tradition of the regiment the officers downed their kilts. Looking out of the window towards a farm house my father saw figures moving about, so he and Sergeant White went to investigate. They entered the building by first throwing in a grenade, followed my machine gun fire. As they entered a German soldier dived out through an open window. White was about to through another grenade after him, but before he could the German turned and fired. White fell to the ground still holding the grenade. My father immediately tried to kick away the smoldering grenade, but it was too late. The grenade exploded, blowing off White’s arm and leg. As my father spun to kick it away, the kilt he was wearing fanned out and deflected much of the exploding shrapnel. It no doubt saved his life! (and mine?). White died the next day and my father was flown back to England by Air Ambulance where he wrote this moving poem:

Oh Nurse, please for a drug
Please don’t turn away and say
Baby go to sleep
Your wounds don’t hurt

My body’s dead to mortal needs
But in the twilight of my dreams
When all the World is wrapped in blankets of content

I lie and listen to the distant sounds
And see again the canopy of fire
Stretch across the barren ground
And hear again the scream from White

As leg and arm disintegrate
For England’s glory

Glory to thee, oh Lord
That I should lie here now a coward
Afraid to rise and face those dead
Who stumbled up that path to death
Who listened to my screaming
‘Take that hill!’

Now that I have had my fill
Cannot I too escape
To long and pleasant evenings after school
When war was just a game
To us young fools
Cannot I leave behind
The crosses in the sands of time?

My father, Major Gordon Graham, was the only officer in the war wounded in a kilt, which he kept as a souvenir, full of holes, 21 yards long. His sister, unbelievably, cut it up to make trousers for her son. My father recovered and then went on to become a famous Fleet Street journalist and critic — Fergus Cashin.

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