Dad’s regiment in World War Two was the 1st/6th Duke of Wellington’s (the Dukes) which was based in Skipton. He had a tough time during the war since they were part of the rearguard defending the British Expeditionary Force at Dunkirk and then saw action in Normandy in 1944. In between times the Dukes sailed for Iceland to join the allied occupying forces in May 1940 as part of the 49th Infantry Division. They returned in April 1942.
The only time I can remember him talking about Iceland was to Katy the first time they met in Glasgow (this would be in 1974). Katy had recently come back from a holiday there and he reminisced a little. I remember he said that he didn’t enjoy the winter with its cold, rain, snow and dark though that was mostly because they were so poorly equipped. In June 2013 (seventy one years after he had left) Katy and I went to Iceland for a conference and for me it was a once in a lifetime opportunity to retrace Dad’s footsteps – if I could find them.
I was helped because I have an album of Dad’s wartime pictures. I scanned them from an old brown photo album of Mum’s. That was my first surprise because the photos were glued in and as I carefully tried to prise them off the page I found that dates and comments might be written on the back of them. Sometimes it was Dad’s famously indecipherable handwriting (see below). This has led to some serious detective work to try and figure out just where he had been. That’s the topic of my next post on Dad in Iceland ….
Before I get round to that though here is a poignant set of pictures. The first is a postcard from Dad standing next to one of Iceland’s renowned Nissen Huts saying ‘Every time you look at this it will remind you to send me the snaps you promised.’ The picture of Mum is dated January 1941 and it says (on the back) ‘It was freezing like hell when this was taken so if I look queer it’s because I am cold.’ Perhaps she mailed this back to him in reply? The building behind her doesn’t look like anything I recognise in Skipton so I think this picture was probably taken at Saffron Walden where she was studying to be a teacher.