Belinda was in the UK recently and met her son’s soon to be mother-in-law, Janet, who mentioned that her father rode a bike during the war and thought we might like to see this picture of him. He was in a Royal Engineers field company and he used to ride ahead on his bike to check routes were clear for his platoon(?). He landed in Normandy but several weeks after D-Day as they were mines, bombs and bridges specialists. He then went across France, Belgium and Holland on his bike, then into Germany.
While they were training in Kent beforehand, he had a terrible collision with another motor cyclist and the handlebar went through his knee. Ironically, it was an interned German surgeon who saved his life and his leg, and fitted an artificial metal knee cap – possibly the earliest ever as it was an experiment!!
He was in hospital nearly a year at Barming Heath in Kent. Many of the engineers were on South coast both deactivating and laying but also learning to build Bailey bridges (she grew up with that name – 1950s – as it was still very recent to him). It was a real skill to get the bridges up quickly so that troops and and tanks could pursue the retreating Germans. He was at Ardennes and the dreadful Falaise pocket. Yet he was still a cheerful, kind and positive man for all that, like so many of them.
He was 94 when he died in 2011 and on the occasions he went into hospital as a white haired, wizened old man, Janet used to pin this picture up on the wall to remind the staff that he was not some anonymous old geriatric but a real person who had been young and vibrant like them once. It is one of her favourite photos of her father.
We wondered whether the wound could have been caused by a lever as they were sharp on the end and due to this problem had a ball end fitted to stop this happening.