Chapter 73

A Sailor’s Last Salute to His Wife

 

With so many lovely girls in Newmills, Fife, it was only natural that young soldiers found favour with quite a number. There were whirlwind romances. One concerned a man in a unit which was on 'stand-by' alert. No one was allowed to leave the camp.

The emergency proclamation of banns was announced to a group of villagers near the church and the notice pinned on the church door.

Guests gathered next forenoon for the wedding and a reception was arranged. Papers were in order, the bride arrived with her bridesmaid, but the soldier bridegroom and his best man didn't put in an appearance. It was impossible to phone the unit on 'stand-by' alert, so I got into a car and made for the camp. The orderly officer told me the soldier in question had left in the early morning on an urgent transport mission to the South of England. He wouldn't be back for forty-eight hours. I returned to the church to tell the bride and her parents, then the guests.

As the reception had been arranged through friends supplying 'points' from their ration cards it was agreed to eat the meal and attend the wedding two days later. We had just started to eat when I was handed a note from the unit commander. It said he regretted the inconvenience caused, but he would make arrangements for the bridegroom's return the following evening. Sure enough the couple were married within forty-eight hours. To add to their happiness, the soldier was given a seven-day pass.

Another exciting romance took place between a girl and a Petty Officer in the navy. Twice a date was fixed for the marriage but naval duties intervened. The third time was lucky and the wedding was a lovely occasion. Again I was pleased to help with getting seven days' leave for the Petty Officer and the couple honeymooned in the south.

From time to time I had letters from both. The husband had a shore establishment position for a few months, then he was posted to a warship. The girl returned to her mother in Dunfermline.

Within a year I learned a baby was expected. The young wife soon had ready all the things necessary for a baby. The young husband, on one of his Atlantic convoys, managed to buy pleasant surprises for his wife and American layettes for his coming child.

One evening a message reached me saying the wife was very ill. I hurried to the hospital in Dunfermline only to learn the baby was well, but no hope was held out for the mother. I took a car to Rosyth, hurried to the Welfare Officer and, within minutes, was escorted to a senior naval officer.

He acted quickly. Signals were sent out to the husband's ship, which was located off the Isle of Man. He arrived next morning. It was my sad duty to inform him that his wife had died, although the baby was well. As minister I officiated at the funeral.

Before the service, at his own request, I ushered the broken hearted young man in to have one last look at his departed loved one. He kissed her cold cheek, put on his hat and gave her the naval salute. He was brave. On high seas he had encountered many trials, but the death of his wife stunned him.

The funeral over, a conference was held about the baby's future. It was agreed that his parents and teenage sister would take charge of the child in their home in the South of England.

 

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This work, Going With God, is copywrited by Ronald R. Caseby, 1993.   All rights reserved.  Used here by express permission.