IN MEMORIA 2015/05/05.
1944-05-05 on this date, 71 years ago, my Father, Corporal David B Campbell, 7885941, 48th Royal Tank Regiment, Royal Armoured Corps, died in a Hospital in the city of Algiers. Algeria, and was buried in The Commonwealth Cemetery at Deli Ibrahim, he was 29 years old. David was born in Dundee Scotland on 17 August 1914, the youngest male of six children (3 boys, 3 girls) of David and Isabella Campbell.
In December of 1931 David’s Mother, my Grandmother, died at the age of 41. The story I heard but cannot confirm is that shortly after her death David had a serious falling out with his Father and he left to join the British Army. There is also confusion as to which regiment he joined as some say he joined the Black Watch others say the Cameron Highlanders, and yet other believed he joined the Royal Armoured Corps. I do have a copy of an official British Army document showing that he was with the 9th Light Tank Company in India in 1936 and entitled to wear the India Service Medal with clasp. Later while still in India he was Mentioned in Despatches but I don’t know what for. Usually one was Mentioned in Despatches for either a gallant or meritorious action in the face of the enemy.
David was in India when WWII started and his regiment was called back to Britain. The route home took his unit through the Suez Canal into the Mediterranean and their orders were to land in southern France, for what reason I don’t know. I do know that shortly after they landed the unit was re-embarked and sailed for England. In May of 1940 the so called Phony War ended with the German invasion of France, Belgium, and the Netherlands this culminated in the Evacuation of the B.E.F. (British Expeditionary Force) from Dunkirk from 27 May-4 June 1940 followed by the surrender of France on 22 June 1940. That same month, June 1940, saw the founding of the Commandos as a raiding force to attack Germany Forces in occupied France and northern Europe. The 4th Commando was formed in June 1940 and eventually made its’ headquarters in Troon a small coastal town on the Firth of Clyde in southwest Scotland. David would be posted with the 4th in Troon and during this time he would meet and marry my Mother. Commandos were not billeted like regular troops in barracks they were given a living allowance to pay for lodgings and food David would end up billeted in my Grandmothers’ house and he would meet and fall in love with my mother Teresa the only one of the five Lee girls living at home the others either in the service or working in England in war production factories. My mother would marry David in November of 1941 she was 18 and David was 9 years her senior at 27. Thirty months later she would be a widow less than a month before her 21st birthday I was 20 months old.
Now the story takes a strange twist and in order to portray it properly I have to Leave Scotland and travel roughly 4000 miles west and back in time to 1920. David’s birthday was 17 August 1914 six years and one day later 18 August 1920, a son would be born in Campbellford Ontario, Canada, to Hector and Grace McArthur. He would be named Albert Raymond and his fate was woven into that of Davis and Teresa. Raymond’s parents would move to Hannah, Alberta, where he would be brought up until the age of 11. His mother’s parents lived in Chelmsford, Essex, England and shortly after he turned 11 he was sent to live with them. Raymond would grow into his teens in England and at 18 he would join the Essex Rifles A British Army Territorial unit (Militia) and when war broke out in September 1939 his unit was called to active duty and sent to France, positioned up close to the Belgium border. The Essex Rifles would not be evacuated from Dunkirk but later at Boulogne further west along the English Channel from Dunkirk. I must state here that my knowledge of the Essex Rifles and it’s movements at this period of the war is somewhat sketchy as the man who would become my step-father rarely talked about the war. After his return From France Raymond would volunteer for the Commandos as David did and both would end up in the same 4th Commando Battalion. Neither David nor Raymond were friends but they knew each other to say hello whenever they met or passed. Another strange twist is that Raymond met my mother before David did. So here we have two men from very different backgrounds one would sire me and the other would raise me.
In March 1941 David would participate in the Lofoten Island Raid with the 4th Commando. Sometime before Raymond would ship out for North Africa and he will be out of the picture for awhile. After Lofoten my knowledge becomes really sketchy. He married my Mother in November of 1941 and I believe shortly after Returned to Unit (RTU). A volunteer in the Commandos remained on the roster of the Regiment he left to join so when a Commando RTU he went back to his Regiment. The next I know about David is that he is a corporal in the 48th Royal Tank Regiment, a hostilities only London Regiment. He was still in the U.K when I was born and I believe he saw me only once when my Mother took me to Hayes Middlesex northeast of London where he was stationed. How long he was in Hayes I don’t know as the next I hear of him he is in North Africa with the 8th Army fighting the German Africa Korp commanded by Rommel. What battles he participated in I don’t know but sometime after the Invasion of Sicily in 1943. Sometime between then and 5 May 1944 he is hospitalized in Algiers for an injured knee. He would be discharged from the hospital and report to his new unit he had volunteered for. I don’t know what the unit’s designation was only that it was a DUKW unit and on the day he reported for duty he collapsed and later died from blood poisoning in the hospital on 5 May 1944 age 29, 104 days before his 30th birthday. I was 20 months old. David is listed on the City of Dundee, Scotland, Honour Roll.
Now on this 5th of May 2015, 71 years later I pause, for a moment to remember this Scottish Soldier, of Clan Campbell and wonder what my life would have been like had he survived to return to his young bride and son? Raymond would return from the war and come to Troon looking for my Mom and marry her. In 1947 he would return to Canada bringing us to a new life. Here I would grow up not knowing that Raymond was not my real father until I was 8 years old. For years I would ask my Mother about David and right up to the day she died she never once answered any of my questions. I learned what I do know about David from one of my Mom’s older sisters. It wasn’t until 2007 at the age of 65 I went back to Dundee and found his family, my family.