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Odds & Sods

My dad wore a bright red jacket and a big black hat!


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My dad was a Guardsman, a lance corporal in the Coldstream Guards, the oldest continuous British army regiment formed as part of Cromwell’s New Model Army. They are an elite regiment, famous from battles such as Waterloo and Dunkirk in WWII.

When WWII began, the 1st and 2nd battalions of The Coldstream Guards were part of the British Expeditionary Force in France; whilst the 3rd Battalion was on overseas service in the Middle East. Additional 4th and 5th battalions were also formed for the duration of the war. They fought extensively, as part of the Guards Armoured Division, in North Africa and Europe as dismounted infantry. The 4th battalion first became a motorized battalion in 1940 and then an armoured battalion in 1943. My dad was in 1st Battalion at Dunkirk!

DUNKIRK 1940
World War II – North West Europe – 2nd June 1940. Both the 1st and 2nd Battalions, Coldstream Guards, were engaged in the heavy fighting during the last days of the evacuation from Dunkirk.

The 1st Battalion at Furnes held out against determined German attempts to break into the perimeter, until they were ordered to retire to the beaches on 1st June.

On the west of the perimeter, the 2nd Battalion held a position for four days against increasingly heavy attacks, until ordered to withdraw into Dunkirk as part of the Rear-Guard of the British Expeditionary Force.

They finally embarked for england on the evening of 2nd June. In this short campaign, each Battalion suffered nearly 200 casualties. Thankfully my dad was not one of them and escaped back to England on one of the “little ships”.

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I can never remember him talking about his military service, the war overall or his escape from Dunkirk. In fact I probably wouldn’t have known he was a Guardsman  at all but for the wonderful photo of him in his red ceremonial tunic and bearskin on our sideboard. He was a very private man, uneducated, silent, almost brooding in character, and tough as nails. For years I have looked back at our time together and tried to understand him, without success, until I got chatting to a man in our local pub recently. In his early 40s he was working on a building site and is …….. an ex Guardsman, Irish Guards. I told him my dad was in the Coldstreams and he immediately began describing him as if he knew him! It was really quite startling as he told me that the discipline, brutality, and training of the Guards is almost dehumanising. Add on top of that the WWII situation and Dunkirk especially with plenty of close quarter fighting and the use of “the bayonet” he said, “will have changed your dad for ever”.


I haven’t seen my dad since I was 11 years old, my parents separating after only 13 years of marriage. My mum and I survived, but that photo didn’t as it got washed away in the village floods of 1967 I described in a previous post. My memory will never be washed away though.

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Discussion

One thought on “My dad wore a bright red jacket and a big black hat!

  1. It must be very difficult for the young boy in those days. I can’t imagined.

    Liked by 1 person

    Posted by Dr C | February 23, 2017, 11:27

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