I wonder where Dad was?

This photo was taken some time during the war; second on the left is my dad, Donald Elsden. I’ve seen the same friends in other photos, but I don’t know who they were, the one on the right, the rather natty gent, may have been called Slim.

My dad was called up just before his twentieth birthday in August 1939; he was at first a medical orderly and he soon ended up in France helping evacuate wounded troops by train. The train he was on stopped outside the port they were due to depart from (maybe Cherbourg) just as it was being bombed. The train went back and I’m not sure what happened except that my grandma received a telegram saying he was missing presumed captured. However, he wasn’t and he and the wounded soldiers and other orderlies, nurses and doctors boarded a different ship which managed to make it across the channel. However, as the ship waited to come into harbour, the enemy chose that moment to bomb the port they where they were due to dock. Fortunately for my dad and the others on the ship, they were safe, but no doubt there were many killed and injured in the harbour (I think it was Portsmouth)

My dad joined the parachute regiment and did his training at what is now Manchester Airport. After that he went abroad and served in France, Italy (at Monte Casino) Greece and North Africa. I am guessing this photo was taken either back in Blighty, or in France, but really I have no clue. Although the war ended in 1945, dad was not demobbed until 1946 – one of the first called up and one of the last to be released.

It’s interesting to see in this photo that he had his sleeves rolled up; he hated long sleeves, and even had mum cut the sleeves of his pyjamas short! He’s wearing a watch, which he never did after the war. I had his old watch as a child for a long time, the screen cracked from the sun, presumably in North Africa.

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