Tuesday 31 July 2018

Little Things


I attended a funeral today, it is the second one in six weeks.   

The first one was for a friend who had been a Royal Marine Commando, a mountain guide, a teacher, and a gentleman.   He was taken prisoner during the Korean War and was imprisoned for almost three years.    During that time he faced daily beatings, starvation, terrible illness, hard labour, and long periods of solitary confinement.    Somehow he survived.

Little wonder that, after he was finally freed and returned home, he left the service and sought isolation in the Welsh hills for a few years.

He had no religious beliefs, so his service was held at the crematorium, without hymns.    However, he was accorded a guard of honour, dipped flags, and an official Royal Marines bugler to play the Last Post.  It was simple, respectful, and it suited the lovely man I had come to know.   

The most poignant moment of all came right at the end, when almost everyone had gone outside to chat and mingle, before moving on to the village pub.   

Very quietly a young RAF man walked through the almost deserted crematorium room, stood in front of the coffin (normally removed, but temporarily left in situ, at the request of the widow) saluted,  bowed his head and spent a few moments in contemplation.      It was the moment I almost lost my composure.   

Today's funeral was for another friend - the man who organised all the Royal Marines tributes for the first funeral.   

Again, a lovely man.   If you ever saw the original 'Mr Chips' film, that could have been him.  He was quiet, scholarly, kind.     As a little boy, during the war,  he was passionate about aircraft, making models, watching out for them in the sky, even when he should have been down in the air raid shelter with the rest of his family. 

As soon as he was old enough, he joined the Fleet Air Arm and became a pilot, flying all manner of aircraft, in many different countries of the world, achieving the rank of Lieutentant-Commander.

His funeral service was held at the parish church in Louth, with full accompaniment from the choir.  He had been attending choir practice when he became ill and died, so  you can imagine how emotionally charged that was.

This was followed with another short service, held at the crematorium.   

He was accorded full respect and some highly decorated uniformed officers attended.   At the end there was a fly-past by a Spitfire aeroplane, an acknowledgement of his years of service.

Once again, the young RAF man* attended.    He quietly paid his own respects to his friend, long after most people had filed out.

The sight of a young man in his prime paying such sincere and private respect to two old warriors was almost my undoing, tears which I had held in check almost found a way out.   It was far more moving than any number of buglers or Spitfires.

*I should say that the young man in question is a farmer's son, serving in the RAF.     He knew both men very well, these were his own farewells, not official duty.           


  1. All I can say is I know how you felt

  2. What tributes to two fine men.

    1. They were fine men, Marcia. Most friends hadn't an inkling of their past. Gentle men.

  3. Replies
    1. Thank you, Luna. It was good to see that they had a good send-off, their service acknowledged.

  4. It's a very powerful thing, this lad's respect.

    1. It still brings a lump to my throat, Susan. It was so quietly done, which increased the power.

  5. That has made me almost weep, Elaine. Thank you for telling us about these two wonderful men and how they served their country. My own father was a navigator in the RAF.
    Margaret P

    1. They were men who did their duty, then quietly got on with life, and I imagine your father was much the same, Margaret.

  6. What a beautiful piece, Elaine. I, too, am quite impressed with the farmer's son, the young man who came to pay his respect to the two fine older gentlemen.

    1. Thank you, Chip. He was quiet, respectful, discreet. His two old friends would have approved.


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