This is the Prologue to the transcript of my Dad, Louis Henry Wigzell’s memories of his experiences in the Second World War, which he began to write in longhand in September 2006, 2 days before his 86th Birthday.
All our lives he had told us little snippets of information, and some of these stories are in this part of the Memoirs, mainly the funny ones. Prompted by my interest in genealogy, I had long ago asked him to write some of these down for future generations to enjoy, and after the sad death of my Mother (his beloved Rose often mentioned here), he decided to do so and I carefully kept those sheets written in his elegant hand.
At this point he was relatively well and mobile, and looking through the pages I can now see how an as yet undiagnosed ailment was already progressing, as his lovely handwriting grew more untidy. I well remember him complaining that it was getting harder to write and that his handwriting was getting smaller and he didn’t know why; at least not until the young doctor who saw him in hospital after a fall some 2 years later asked about his writing, which, tied in with other symptoms led to the diagnosis of Parkinson’s Disease.
This part of his story is just as he wrote it; I have made no alterations at all. However, when it became impossible for him to write any more, I took over and we spent many hours together with me taking down in my own very scruffy hand whatever he could remember that day. What with my progressing deafness and the difficulty he was now experiencing with speech, this was quite a hard undertaking for both of us, and sometimes made for some humorous misunderstandings as well as some frustration on both sides! When I come to my scrappy jottings I will have to re-organise it into my own words and hope I have retained the essence of his intentions.
He still insists his war was mundane, but I feel he has already mentally edited his years in the Far East – mainly India and Burma,but also short stays in South Africa, Sierra Leone and Palestine - keeping back some of the more unpleasant stories so as not to upset his daughters, or maybe there are things which he just doesn’t want to remember, and that is his prerogative. I suspect a little of both; for now in his 92nd year he has begun to have nightmares and waking dreams harping back to wartime, and night terrors in which he remembers something terrible which I have yet to discover.
Either way, I shall do what I can with this manuscript, and hope these honest memories of an ordinary man (his words) at an extraordinary time in history will be of interest.