The Last Crusader

The Desert Rats/
The Jungle Rats

Yesterday we talked about Pearl Harbor, as is appropriate for us to remember one of the worst defeats American History, which came about because we believed then, as we believe now, that all people deserve to be free.

But, we often forget, we weren’t the only people involved, on 10 December 1941 the HMS Prince of Wales and the HMS Repulse were sunk off Singapore by Japanese medium bombers. 71 years ago the Philippines were attacked, and the Japanese aggression had started in China in 1937, and in Europe the war began on 01 September 1939 when Nazi Germany invaded Poland. After the early run of victories by the Axis there was one force in all the world that laid it all on the line for freedom until the attack at Pearl Harbor: The British Empire. Yes, we helped but our isolationists limited to a great extent, the limits of that help.

Our British cousins stood there valiantly, supported by their empire, alone for more than a year: in Britain, in Egypt, in India, in Australia, in Hong Kong,  in Singapore, and elsewhere.

Well might Sir Winston Churchill say:

To have the United States at our side was to me the greatest joy. Now at this very moment I knew the United States was in the war, up to the neck and in to the death. So we had won after all!…Hitler’s fate was sealed. Mussolini’s fate was sealed. As for the Japanese, they would be ground to powder.

And so it came to pass.

Why am I talking about this today, of all days? Well there is a connection, My co-author and dearest friend Jessica has lost her Grandfather-in-Law this week, who I understand raised the Captain. She has referred to him in an e-mail to me as, “For me, Tom is the last crusader. Ramrod straight and gruff as they come, but a heart as big as Texas.”

Jess has a wonderful remembrance of Tom posted at the Watchtower, go now and read it, then come back.

Tom served in the 7th Armoured Brigade, the Desert Rats (the Green Rats) throughout World War 2, that means he was at all the battles of the British forces in North Africa until at least the relief of Tobruk. He may well have been one of those young soldiers, both British and German, who sang this song in Tobruk.

In early 1942 the brigade moved to that stepchild of everybody’s war effort, Burma just in time to have a hand in the defense of India from the Japanese.

[I know it’s not quite right but films about the CBI are about as rare as resupply was in that theatre.]

In 1943 they returned to the middle east being based in Iraq and Egypt until in 1944 they joined the Canadian Corps in Italy, for the duration of the war.

Jess tells me that Tom’s mind has been clouded for the last several years, which makes me think that part of Lady Thatcher’s Eulogy of President Reagan would also be appropriate for Tom:

“For the final years of his life, [Tom’s] mind was clouded by illness. That cloud has now lifted.

“He is himself again – more himself than at any time on this earth. For we may be sure that the Big Fella Upstairs never forgets those who remember Him.

“And as the last journey of this faithful pilgrim took him beyond the sunset, and as heaven’s morning broke, I like to think – in the words of Bunyan – that ‘all the trumpets sounded on the other side’.

“We here still move in twilight. But we have one beacon to guide us that [Tom] never had.

“We have his example. Let us give thanks today for a life that achieved so much for all of God’s children.”

Jess tells us that Tom was not a Christian but, I like to think that God has a special place, perhaps  over by the barracks of the street guards of heaven for soldiers of freedom who lived exemplary lives. I think those guards will welcome a kindred spirit with a spirited, “Semper Fi, Mac.”

And what would those trumpets sound for a brave soldier of the King? You know the answer.

The remembrance poppy.

At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.

About Neo
Lineman, Electrician, Industrial Control technician, Staking Engineer, Inspector, Quality Assurance Manager, Chief Operations Officer

13 Responses to The Last Crusader

  1. JessicaHof says:

    Thank you, dearest friend – I will write more when I have wiped the tears this brought x


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