Granddad was a Royal Navy man


Did I ever tell you that a cannon ball took my leg off at the Battle of Trafalgar?”

He sips his rum.

Lord Nelson passed by and I said, ‘milord, my leg’s gone.’ He looked down and said “so it has, so it has.”

Now as Granddad was born in 1882 this takes some explaining.

He was a son of Snape (a Suffolk village), which was in those days a few houses in a swamp near the mouth of the River Alde. He lived 12 years in a culture within which the locals constantly recalled the battles from the beginning of the nineteenth century because they disliked the French with a vengeance. Those who gathered cockles and whelks from the coast would often refer to the French as being:

“Too close to our fishing grounds and our women”

These were the sentiments in East England during those times.

Bert joined the Royal Navy as a boy cadet and after the beginning of the new century he was at sea in a dreadnought.

He never returned to Snape, met a Walton girl, married, and on while on leave lived in a tiny old terraced house in the riverside quarter of old Walton.

He was a sailor of his times. On ship he was reliable with no pretences at rising up the ranks to petty officer. On ships-leave he was wild and unfettered. He used to strip off and stand on the balustrade of Walton Bridge (over the river Thames). There was heavy boat traffic in those days, the ladies would toss a few coins into the river and Bertie would spring into a swallow dive before surfacing with the coins.

When the circus or fair came along on leave sailors didn’t have to egg on Bertie for more than a few minutes. Then with a roar they would march, with a cheer, to the boxing booth. Bertie was only a middleweight in his socks and seldom lost a bout; but he was, as his mates roared “Hard as nails!”

Even after Queen Victoria died the sailors considered the French the enemy. “There’s Germans in the Royal Family, we’ll never be doing them.” They were wrong.

The sailors of the Royal Navy went into World War 1 were somewhat astonished to be set to sinking the German Dreadnoughts. They met their match at the Battle of Jutland. (1) Even though Granddad was tough, having a flying piece of red hot steel whip one leg off took some enduring.

HMS Dreadnought, 1911 (Wikimedia)
HMS Dreadnought, 1911 (Wikimedia)

Invalided back to Walton with a peg leg and some of his mind gone, he needed his main brace. He died in 1940. (2).

(1).   Bert’s involvement at the Battle of Jutland is accounted in one of my boosks in which Bert is Pa Slipper.

(2).   Bert was killed on Walton Bridge in 1940. He was reliving his early life when a flight of German bombers flew overhead in broad daylight, using the Thames as a guide to the Vickers Weybridge factory. An army truck raced over the bridge and the driver was looking at the sky. Bertie was slow on his peg leg to move out of the way and was killed.

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