My Father’s Pride #memories #poetry #parachuteregiment

In June 1945 my father was 18. He wrote the letter below to my mother, his then girlfriend with momentous news. He had undertaken his first parachute jump preparatory to being admitted as a member of the Parachute Regiment. He was many things in his life but nothing gave him more pride outside of his family than that.

June 1945

8 Platoon

Manchester

To

3 Coy

Darling Barbs,

I’ve made it! – my first jump, I mean. Yesterday morning in the pale, cold light of dawn I diced with death, in other words, I jumped from a balloon at 800 feet yesterday morning. Oh boy, Barbs, it’s the greatest thrill you can imagine. One minute you are hurtling down through space and the next your shute opens and you are floating gently to earth. It is no use my saying I was not scared. I have never felt so awful in my life as I did when I stood at the door and looked down, waiting for the instructor to tap me on the shoulder and say “Go”. I have now 2 more balloon jumps to make (one at night) and then 5 jumps from a Dakota aircraft. Weather providing we’ll get them all done this coming week and get our wings next weekend. If this happens it means I shall get leave in about 10 days time. Sixteen glorious days, during which, of course, I must see you if you can make it. I can’t say definitely if this leave is exactly 10 days time or not, because as I said it all depends on the weather. However, I’ll let you know as soon as I can and ring up your Mama she will perhaps be able to let me know if you are likely to get home or not. I must see you because although the b…. fool Army says I am too young (too young! Me!!!) to be sent abroad, nevertheless I can, I think, volunteer for Active Service abroad, and, of course, I intend to. So maybe this will be my last leave in England, and if I left without seeing you, Barbara, I guess I would be a pretty sad and lonely soldier.

I wrote to your mother just before I left Hardwich but I haven’t received a letter yet from her. Of course, I know she is very busy being a manageress of a Naafi must be a really full time job. I’ll write to her again soon because I think she’s great and a damned good sport.

Here at Ringway we are billeted in Nissen huts and have a wireless in every hut. Honestly, it’s the cushiest joint I’ve ever been in, the only trouble being the pretty tough mental strain before doing a jump. However, that can soon be overcome and I wouldn’t change my life for anything now that I know the wonderful thrill of a jump. And besides, I want to get that little pair of wings on my right shoulder. I am doing my second jump tomorrow at 5.30 of all outrageous times, so here’s hoping the weather remains good.

Well, darling child, I must close and try and get some sleep now, reveille is at 2.30!

All my love

Des

P.S. Please write soon.

Later he did jump from the Dakota and obtain his ‘wings’

His fears, expressed above were captured in a poem he sent to his mother and then my mother later that year

A Paratrooper’s Prayer

When I’m flying at seven hundred

And the red light flickers on

I know I’ll tremble and start to sweat

But, God, let me be strong.

When I look down through the hole, God

It’s like I’m standing by a grave

And my knees go weak and I can’t speak

Then, God, please make me brave.

And if it be Thy will, God

Part of Thine own Great Plan

That my life should stop, then on that last long drop

Oh God, let me die a man!

While I’m waiting to emplane, God

And checking my jumping kit

Though I laugh and jeer I’m full of fear

But, God, don’t let me quit.

When the kite begins to move, God

And take off time is near

Then my heart grows cold – God, make me bold

And drive away my fear.

About TanGental

My name is Geoff Le Pard. Once I was a lawyer; now I am a writer. I've published four books - Dead Flies and Sherry Trifle, My Father and Other Liars, Salisbury Square and Buster & Moo. In addition I have published three anthologies of short stories and a memoir of my mother. More will appear soon. I will try and continue to blog regularly at geofflepard.com about whatever takes my fancy. I hope it does yours too. These are my thoughts and no one else is to blame. If you want to nab anything I post, please acknowledge where it came from.
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59 Responses to My Father’s Pride #memories #poetry #parachuteregiment

  1. Darlene says:

    That is such a great letter, thank heaven you still have them. And the poem is amazing. He was a very talented man. That talent being passed on to his son.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. M. L. Kappa says:

    I just cannot imagine getting that letter from your boyfriend or that poem from your son. All before ‘health and safety’ concerns! People were made of sterner stuff then.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. This is wonderful…the poetry, the letter, and the young face in that photo!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. That’s why your dad is known as the greatest generation. Thanks for sharing these amazing writings from your dad.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. George says:

    What treasured possessions that letter and that poem must be. Thank you for sharing them with us. They are rather special.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. trifflepudling says:

    Such a vivid letter from your dad and nice to see one of the grandmothers mentioned. Having met briefly at your wedding, it’s interesting to see her earlier life alluded to. What an odd time WWII must’ve been for everyone. My MiL said they were all bored at home for a while after it ended!
    Great photo mosaic.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. willowdot21 says:

    Bring tears to my eyes, thank you Des 💜.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Beautiful letter and poem. No braver than those who face their fears. I saw a funny photo the other day. It was a soldier in a helicopter with a little note on the back of his helmet. It read, “Stop screaming. I’m scared too.”

    Liked by 1 person

  9. A wonderful letter Geoff and they were such a life line in those days and I know how important they were for my mother particularly not knowing where my father was from one minute to the next. He must have been so proud to get his wings as you must be of him at 18 prepared to put everything on the line.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. There is, of course, no courage without fear

    Liked by 1 person

  11. What a wonderful post, Geoff. I was so moved by this glimpse into your father’s young life and thoughts. He was brave in the face of fear, and a lovely poet on top of that. The Greatest Generation, for sure.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Pam Lazos says:

    What a great keepsake to have and to know about your dad that way, Geoff.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Pingback: My Father’s Pride #memories #poetry #parachuteregiment | Smorgasbord Blog Magazine

  14. A great letter, Geoff. I am sure this poem was in the front of your book, Apprenticed to my Mother. It seems very familiar to me and now I will have to go and check.

    Liked by 1 person

  15. Elizabeth says:

    I love how articulate he was at 18. Thanks for letting us get a glimpse into the life of the parachute soldier.

    Liked by 1 person

  16. How frightening to jump out of an airplane! He did a good job of painting that picture.

    Liked by 1 person

  17. Toni Pike says:

    Hi Geoff, So young, so moving and so much courage. How wonderful that you still have that letter. Toni x

    Liked by 1 person

  18. Jennie says:

    Geoff, this is just wonderful. I am deeply touched reading your father’s letter and poem. I now know where you get your writing talent. You two write much alike. The photos are a real treasure. Thank you so much for this post.

    Liked by 1 person

  19. What a wonderful family treasure and piece of history!! As others have noted, your dad was very articulate and self-aware at 18, although he does look a mere boy in the photo.

    Liked by 1 person

  20. What a wonderful letter and a beautiful memory for you as well! Thanks for sharing!

    Liked by 1 person

  21. Fantastic! Goosebumps over here, reading this story, Geoff. Thank you for sharing–the photos and all.

    Liked by 1 person

  22. Geoff, what a treasure to share with us. Thank you. Your Dad’s young face and his words. ❤ You are a 'chip off the old block' and we owe our lives and freedom now to their generation. ❤

    Liked by 1 person

  23. A wonderful poem. I think the first I’ve ever read on this subject. Parachuters can really be proud. At least in past times, under all these circumstances. Michael

    Liked by 1 person

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