Remembering

I have a dress to share, and a story. Hopefully it’s something you’re interested in reading. First up this is my new dress. It’s an Emery Dress by Christine Haynes mashed with Project Runway for Simplicity 2444.

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I used the bodice darts and neckline from 2444 but the armholes and sleeves from the Emery. It’s the Emery skirt too. I mentioned this on Instagram and Twitter but I used a clever but fiddly tutorial to fully line the bodice, even though it has sleeves. I made it extra hard for myself by lining the bodice in the same fabric as the shell so it was hard to work out what to sew and when.

The fabric is a Robert Kaufman limited edition print called “Patriots” – a design to commemorate the centennial of the Naval Airforce. I bought it at Abakhan a few months back and felt emotionally drawn to it. I knew I had to sew it up before November.

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This time of year always makes me a little sad. You see every Remembrance Day I think of my Grandparents and I feel regret that I didn’t know them better. I never asked them the questions that I should have before it was too late. I know that’s a familiar tale but it doesn’t make me regret it any less.

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So today I’d like to share something about my Grandad, on my Father’s side. Alfred Edward Thomas, “Ted” to his friends was in the Navy during the Second World War. Here’s what I know.

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Volunteering in June 1942, aged 19, he joined the HMS Collingwood as a Leading Seaman – that was the equivalent of a Corporal from what I can tell. Between June 1942 and Feb 1945 he served on the Collingwood (for training), Osprey, and the Drake IV Tanatside. In May 1943 during his time on Tanatside the he was promoted to Able Seaman meaning a seaman with at least two years’ experience at sea. From Feb 1945 to June 1946 he served on the HMS Pembroke IV, Fabius (sp?), St Angelo (Caduus), Peacock, and Blenheim. He also spent several months on various out-stations of HMS Victory, most likely for more training.

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He was awarded the 1939-1945 Star, Atlantic Star (service in France and Germany), Africa Star (service in North Africa 1942-43)The Defense Medal and The War Medal. There’s a significance to the order of the medals which I won’t delve into too much but I want to say the 1939-1945 Star is awarded to those with more than 180 days continuous service – that’s something to imagine. And the Atlantic Star was awarded to those who participated in the Battle of the Atlantic, the longest continuous battle of the Second World war.

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To think of anyone serving in a war is almost inconceivable, it becomes a mental amalgamation of film or television scenes and patchy school history lessons. To think of someone you know – someone who has taken you on day trips and played board games with you – being at war is even harder to rationalise.

But it’s good to try and remember, to think of the effort and sacrifice. So I know what I’ll be thinking of at 11am on the 11th of November.

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13 Comments

  1. Think where you were on you 18th and 21st birthday, and think of those brave young men celebrating theirs in battle so we can enjoy our future. We salute you!

  2. How great that ‘remembering’ isn’t limited to 11am on the 11th of November – instead through this project you’ve been able to commemorate and thank those who endured war so that we could know freedom. A great endeavour and a lovely dress! Thanks for posting.

  3. Amy thanks for sharing! He sounds like he was an amazing man. I know exactly what you mean about regret, my father fought in the war on Poland’s side and was shot and captured by the Russians. He passed away when I was 8 & I often wish I could ask him so many questions about it all! Xx

  4. Lovely, Amy. It’s truly amazing what our grandparents did when they were younger than we are now – so hard to comprehend. The impact on them was so significant, they feel the effects even now (my Gran with dementia fears food running out, my other Gran went to an air show and one of the engines cut out on an old plane. She really panicked, thinking it was a doodlebug). Elderly people who saw such horrible things to give us a future are now facing old age lonely – we should do our best to talk to our elderly relatives and neighbours, listen to their stories and pass them to the younger generations. No one should forget what they did for us. P.S. Beautiful dress 🙂

  5. A heart felt post, truly fascinating. The older I get the more I think about the lives our grandparents lived. Many of them living through two world wars not just one My mother was a child during the war. Even I remember playing on bomb sites in the late sixties and marveling at the remnants of air raid shelters! Thank you for sharing your story…xxx

  6. It’s great you’re thinking about your Grandad and sharing a bit of his story. The reality of what life was like ‘back in those days’ really comes forth from those personal memories, more than just thinking of the period as a whole. When I lived in Leeds my Uncle and Aunty (who were more like grandparents) used to tell me lots of stories of their childhood and twenties. Stuff like collecting coal dust and pushing it home in wheelbarrows.. or getting sent away to stay with other families during the Blitz. It’s amazing to think of the frugality they lived through compared to our consumerist society now and I often wonder just what they make of it.

    I also typed up some of our family history (on the other side) a few years ago from notes my grandad had written in his later years. What an amazing read! I am terrible at keeping a diary or anything like that, but I’m really trying to keep baby books and yearly letters to my children for when they are older so they can understand what life was like at this moment in history.

    I hope you have had a nice Remembrance Day in tribute to your Grandad and all those that also served.

  7. Wow, I’ve been so tempted to buy that fabric since it caught my eye a few months ago, so it’s lovely to see it made up and even better that it has a poignant link to your family and Armistice Day, that’s something that never occurred to me. I’m definitely going to order some now I’ve seen it as a dress 🙂

  8. Thank you for sharing! I too regret not asking my grandparents certain things about their lives, but now I remember to not hold back and ask my parents everything I can about our family history. And it’s so neat that you have the medals!

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