About 15 years ago , i was sitting on a train going down to London to a cartoonist piss up, at the CARTOONIST PUB . As i was sitting on the train i was doing a little pencil work on one of a set of greetings cards we were making at the time ,and making a fair bit of money from ...Ah the good ol' days. As i got off the train an old fellah came up to me and asked if i was a cartoonist. I told him i was and we started talking and had a coffee. He had always enjoyed doodling and sketching and had been watching me on the train, but didnt want to bother me. I told him, "Not to be so daft n' i'll be glad to be interuppted." It turned out, he was a survivor from AUSCHWITZ. His name was LEON GREENMAN and he was an English man who'd been caught up and thrown into the camp with his family. They were exterminated virtually upon arrival and Leon was put to work. He survived Auscwitz ,BUCHENWALD AND THE INFAMOUS DEATH MARCHES....I was stunned at his story, and saw his numbered tatoo on his arm. He used to send little drawings ,As above. with a note wishing me n' the family all the best. They never met him ,but he never forgot their names. He sent me a copy of his book .AN ENGLISHMAN IN AUSCWITZ. I lost contact with him after our period abroad , but on trying to get back in touch ,found he'd died a few years ago.
sea gates off the dry dock used by the German battleship THE TIRPITZ. A truly amazing story told by these friendly mild old fellahs, who ,as Clarkson never tired of pointing out were "Hard as nails, and God, they were tough!", and i wouldnt disagree. I visited St Nazaire when i was nearby at a cartoon festival years ago and visited the dry dock and the Submarine pens. In one there is a fully restored U-BOAT. We went inside banging our heads knees and elbows on pipes ,doorframes and everything else in this tiny space. I couldnt wait to get out after 5 minutes ,but the crews were in the middle of the ATLANTIC OCEAN for weeks or months at a time.
A heap of years ago LIVERPOOL celebrated THE WESTERN APPROACHES. This was , at last the official recognition of the work of the MERCHANT SEAMEN during the ATLANTIC CONVOYS. I met a heap of old sailors and the stories they told, dear god!....My uncle who i took along served towards the end and was adrift at one point in the Atlantic.
Another uncle got the VICTORIA CROSS at TOBRUK,Fighting off one of ROMMELLS panzer units. He was a quiet shy little man and 'never mentioned the war. Another was a member of the SPECIAL OPERATIONS EXECUTIVE, dropped behind enemy lines , blowing stuff up and possibly killing with bare hands ,etc. I found that out as he was on his death bed. A friend of mines dad was in the CHINDITS in the BURMESE JUNGLES fighting the JAPANESE. My own dad ,was never in the war ,but was in some R.A.F. intelligence unit ,whose job was travelling around east and west Europe trying to find crashed and missing aircraft from the war. But his dad , my 'pop, served right through the WW1, from beginnig to end ,all through the big battles in the slaughter of the trenches.
The whole point of this was this is stuff that we cannot imagine, its amazing and these people lived through these hellish situations of which we thankfully will never have to. But when an old boss of mine ,years ago , gave me the advice after i'd made some disparraging remark about my dad , possibly."Ah whats that ol' fart know!"...He said he'd thought that about his own dad like that, then thought , he'd never really asked him about his life. So, they went out for a pint and he grilled his dad about his life.He couldnt believe what he'd heard. He said "try it ,it'll be worth it for you and your dad!".....So i did!....And it was.....I'm sorry i left it so late