Saturday, 23 June 2012

Keeping busy ... and listening to my father

I seem to have been very busy for the last two days. On Friday my wife and I went to the local shopping centre, where she traded her old iPhone 3G in for a new iPhone 4S. As a result we spend quite some time last night and this morning trying to transfer data from her old mobile telephone to her new one ... with only a partial degree of success.

Whilst we were in the shopping centre I managed to squeeze in a visit to Waterstone's bookshop and bought ITALIAN LIGHT TANKS 1919-45 by F Cappellano and P P Battistelli. The book is illustrated by R Chasemore and was published by Osprey in 2012 as No. 191 of their New Vanguard series (ISBN 978 1 84908 777 3).

This morning the post brought the latest issue (No. 149, June 2012) of S.O.T.Q. (SOLDIERS OF THE QUEEN).

This is the journal of the Victorian Military Society and I have yet to read a issue where there was little of interest to me. This one has an article by Richard Stevenson entitled 'Garibaldi's Englishmen' and I am looking forward to reading that later tonight.

At lunchtime today I visited my father in his residential care home. For once he was quite lively and seemed much more aware of things than usual. We talked for nearly an hour, and towards the end of our conversation he had a spell of lucidity that was stunning. It came about because I made a chance comment about the visit of Aung San Suu Kyi to the UK. In a flash my father's eyes became very alert and he said quite clearly 'I knew her father, Aung San.'

I knew that my father had served in Burma after the Second World War as part of the British Training Mission that was sent to help set up and train the Burmese Army prior to independence, but I was unaware that he had ever met Aung San. (The new Burmese Army was created from units of the former British Burma Army and the Burma National Army (BNA), which was led by Aung San. My father helped to train the Chin Hills Battalion to become a Divisional Anti-Tank Regiment.)

With considerable clarity my father described his involvement in the events of 19th July 1947, the day when Aung San was assassinated by paramilitary troops led by former Prime Minister U Saw. My father was in Rangoon at the time, and was only a few blocks away from the Secretariat Building where the Executive Council (the 'government-in-waiting' set up by the British in preparation for independence) was meeting. Aung San and six of his cabinet ministers were killed during the attack. My father and a squad of soldiers were sent to protect Aung San's family, and he recalled carrying a young girl (possibly Aung San Suu Kyi?) to safety during the operation.

The effort of this feat of memory tired him out and I left soon afterwards, but the fact that he can still recall events from so long ago with such clarity despite his dementia made me feel far more positive about his condition that I have after recent visits. I know that he will never get better, and will get worse as the condition progresses, but it was so nice to see just a glimpse of the father the way I remember him.


  1. That is an amazing story, you must be pleased you heard it and that your father was better.

  2. Phyllion,

    The clarity with which he recalled these events was as amazing as the story itself. I only wish he was able to be lucid more often ... but that is very unlikely bearing in mind his condition.

    All the best,


  3. Wow, great post, amazing story. I found that the brief periods of lucidity in a loved one were often hardest to cope with - you see the person you remember is still there behind the dementia, but then they're gone again. Well done for posting!

  4. Vladdd309,

    It was a truly amazing incident and story ... and the period of lucidity was exceptional compared to the way my father has been recently. It was upsetting ... but also gave me hope that he can still 'function' normally just once in a while, and that deep inside he is still the father I have known for more than sixty year.

    All the best,



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