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- Wakefield Libraries & Information Services
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- Leonard Crabtree
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- 30 July 2004
Written by David Crabtree, Truro, Cornwall and added to the site by Christine Wadsworth, Senior Librarian, Wakefield Libraries and Information Services with his permission. The author fully understands the site terms and conditions.
This year, 2004, will mark the anniversaries of many WW2 episodes such as D Day, the liberation of Paris and Arnhem.
It is certainly a time for reflection.
Many of my generation, I am 61, have no memory of these events and have to rely on books, films and the experiences of our parents generation.
My Dad, Leonard Crabtree, was called up in October 1940 aged 32. He was a shop assistant in a provision merchants called the Globe Tea Company, later Duckworth's. It was typical of such shops in northern industrial towns in that era ie. the Maypole, Redmans and the Home and Colonial. He lived in Castleford, West Yorkshire.
For the record his unit was the 82 Armoured Engineer Squadron 6th Armoured Engineer Regiment, 1st Assault Brigade, Royal Engineers, 79 Armoured Division. I can recall his cap badge and the RE motto "Honi Soit Qui Mal Y Pense". It was formed in 1943 and disbanded in 1945. It had a short but eventful life beginning with D Day and then fighting in Belgium, Holland and Germany.
It specialised, among other things, in bridging rivers, ravines and opening up routes through minefields. Dad was a driver bringing up supplies. He was never injured or wounded but a high proportion of the Unit were as recorded in a copy of the Unit diary which I still have.He had a small part in a titanic struggle.
I remember his daily routine, WOLFE. This was an aid to memory - Checking water, oil, fuel, lights and engine. He told me of gabions, fascines, crabs, flails, crocdiles, Avres and petards.
Dad was away for about five and a half years and then went back to the same firm and worked in Doncaster, Hemsworth and Castleford. Resuming civilian life must have been difficult for him as well as millions of other returning servicemen. For many life would never be the same again. To me dad was a stranger and I had to get used to him.
I remember that he attended many reunions in London. The Crown, Sovereign Street, rings a bell as does the name of Lionel Crate the Unit cook who organised them. For many years Major Poynder, the Unit commander attended.
Dad died in 1985 and I wish that I had showed more interest in that important time in his life. But of course it was an experience that we had not shared. Our experiences were fundamentally different, there being 35 years between us.
Dad gave me life, freedom and a strong Yorkshire accent, not a bad legacy. My reflections on his experience prompted by this website have been a pleasure and a duty. I am left with feelings of sadness, pride and a sustained blaze of memory.
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