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The Rock-itt : April 2010
This happened to me when I was around twelve years of age; it is something that has been locked away in my memory for decades. It will be a relief to finally tell the story about my grandfather, my hero. I had been to a special Christmas Eve screening at the local theatre and returned home at around ten in the evening. I walked into the kitchen to find my grandfather, Jack Olson, sitting alone at the table, a small sherry class beside him, and his bible open in front of him. We exchanged some repartee before he winked, "If I give you a small glass of sherry to celebrate Christmas, you won't tell your Nan, will you?" We sat and talked and as we did I asked him about his time in France in World War 1. Pop, as I called him, was always reluctant to talk about the war but on this occasion, maybe it was the sherry or maybe he just wanted to release some of the pain and demons that must have been haunting him and that would have been locked away inside for the past forty years or so. He began by telling me of how he and his mates had joined up in 1917 and were transported to England and then France. He apparently was in the 35th Battalion trench mortar battery and somehow or other ended up with the "Eggs a Cook" Battalion which was the 44th Battalion. I asked different questions as an inquisitive young boy would, how many Germans did he kill, was he in a big battle, did he keep his gun and his uniform and if so, could I have them. Then his eyes lit up as he seemed to remember something. "Do you want to see something really special I brought back with me from the Somme?" he asked. I nodded and he disappeared up the hall to his bedroom and returned with a little black metal box. He carefully sorted through the bits and pieces of his much loved treasures until he found what he was looking for, then ever so gently removed it from the tin and laid it on the table in front of me. It appeared to be a piece of ancient looking red rag. It was about 50mm square in size and looked similar to a piece of coloured cheese cloth or the kind of resin cloth that surfers use to repair their boards. I touched it, picked it up, turned it over then laid it back on the table. "What is it?" I enquired. His grey blue eyes were twinkling and his distant smile showed he was reliving the past. "It's a piece of the German 'Air Ace's' plane," he replied. I knew nothing of any German 'Air Ace' from the First World War. I had been brought up on World War 11 Audrie Murphy, Battle Hymn, The Rats of Tobruk, Bataan, and Bridge on the River Kwai. I had no knowledge of what he was talking about and as he returned the piece of cloth to the tin, I think he was a little disappointed at my lack of 'The Red Baron' Manfred Von Richthofen Priv ate Jack Olson, AIF 35th Battalion