D-Day 6th of June means a lot to us British. For most it is a day of pride, the day that put the 'Great' back into Great Britain but for my father Major James Charles Hugh Miller it was not such a good memory for at the time he was in Trieste having fought his way up through North Africa, Sicily, Italy via Monte Casino had ended up in Trieste a seaport in Northern Italy.
The 'Great British Public' felt that the those troops who were safely out of the way in Italy were not doing their bit and had it easy. The troops were known as the D.Day Dodgers and were classed as cowards! My father really objected to this. He was so incensed that he carried around an envelope with the words of a song sung to 'Lillie Marlene' that said how the Italian troops felt. I found this airmail when he died in 1997 in his wallet.
Being a typical daughter I never bothered to find out what my father actually did during the war. I had a vague idea. I knew he was in the RASC and had risen from private to Captain then Major and that was about it so it came as a surprise and a shock to find out.
My father Major Miller had saved just one dispatch and in 2000 I found it in among a collection of envelopes. I opened it and I read it. It was quite long but evidently his Superior Officer Major Storey had told my father to write out a complete history of his brigade. I learned in detail what my father had been doing during his war in Italy, basically building roads and repairing the trucks and lorries, usually just behind or in some cases in front of the front line. His description of Vesuvius erupting on the night the Allies had entered Naples was entertaining as the Allies thought it was the Germans who had found out and lit up the sky in defense . He also saved the US Army from blowing up the famous bridge in Florence but how was not mentioned. I have the photos of the event he took somewhere. It was also his job to bury the dead. I believe the dead horses were the worst. Evidently the Germans used a lot of horses!
It made fascinating reading. I was so proud of him and I wished now I had listened more closely to his war stories but at least I knew. To begin he had been in the fire brigade in London during the Blitz in the West End pulling people out of buildings. He once even directed the traffic in Oxford Circus and did such a good job he made the Times! He entered the army as a private and soon became officer material. Not surprising as my father had attended Glasgow Academy! The Eton of the North!
Then I looked at the date of the dispatches and I couldn't believe my eyes. This dispatch was written of D Day 6th of June 1944! Daddy had spent D Day writing his companies war record in Trieste and it must have hurt to know that he and his company was classed as a D Day Dodgers!
I was so proud of him! Still am! What a wonderful father!