This story was prompted by the photo below at Friday Fictioneers, https://rochellewisofffields.wordpress.com/2015/12/02/4-december-2015 , hosted by Rochelle Wisoff-Fields. To be honest, it was also triggered by Rochelle’s own post, which I found to be beautiful and heartbreaking. My story is based on a real event and it felt quite good to put it down on “paper”. I’ve gone way over the word limit at 197 words, but I found it hard to keep to that. Sorry.
The photo was kindly provided by Roger Bultot.
Worth the try
‘The dad you remember is in there,’ Dr Khan had said, ‘with his memories. Stimulate them – with pictures, sounds – it might draw him out, even for a moment.’
So it seemed like serendipity when work took me past the site of HMS Ganges, the former base for naval cadets. I’d lost count of how many times I’d listened to Dad’s tales of his time there. Or not listened.
Some landmarks remained among the rubble, like Faith, Hope and Charity, the steps where Dad’s pal George collapsed and died during a training session. The poem If on the gymnasium wall. And, thankfully, the mast where Dad had once been the “button boy”.
From the hundreds of photos I took, I selected the best and made a DVD, with tunes like Heart of Oak in the background.
At first, when I played it, Dad didn’t seem interested. He sat, rotating his thumbs, the way he did when his mind was elsewhere. Then his thumbs fell still and the energy moved into his eyes.
When the film ended, I looked at Dad in anticipation. Nothing, for ages, then he spoke, ‘I never went to Ganges. That was your Uncle Jack.’
HMS Ganges was a real training establishment for naval cadets, which operated in Suffolk, England until 1976. If you’d like to know more about its history, please try this link: http://www.hmsgangesmuseum.org.uk/ . The cadets regularly took part in “manning the mast”, with one lucky (?) individual taking the role of “button boy”, i.e. standing at the very top of the mast, 143 feet high, on a disc about a foot wide, and saluting! The ceremony can be seen at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vaiRLNLuSGQ .
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