DEC 09 A VISIT TO THE BEACHA, AND THE HAND GRENADE
By Kingsley Pearce
Shortly after the end of the war on a nice summer day my mother decided that we should go onto the beach for the afternoon. After lunch, all that I had to do was to put my cap on and carry a spade. In those days wearing a cap was, of course, mandatory, and apparently a necessary piece of my every day equipment.. Although I could never see the purpose in always having to wear a cap when leaving the house, the reason given to me for doing so was a simple one. Your cap was there for you to be able to raise it to ladies.
Not to digress, many years later as an adult, I was to see that whilst raising, or touching your hat to ladies had become a habit, they nevertheless still appreciated it. This was evident when many years ago, at the time of one local council election, when my wife after voting, told me for whom she had voted.. I found her choice strange, as whilst three of the four candidates she was allowed to vote for, being a choice from the total number standing, three were of her political persuasion, but the last one was definitely not. Being curious, I enquired why she had voted for that candidate? With that pained look on her face that she still uses, when apparently I ask a stupid question, and the answer obvious, she explained to me that she had voted for Mr X , because he was such a nice man, and whenever they met, he would always raise his hat to her, and also by name wish her good day. Of course, silly of me not to have realised the reason, but feminine logic then, and to this day, still remains a mystery to me.
Back to the beach, I was ready at 2.o’clock to leave the house. Mother of course was not.
Her preparations had to include packing all of the vital equipment that was necessary to help sustain our two hours of survival on the beach. Items being placed into a large cloth embroidered beach bag, with wooden handles the length of coat hangers, had included the vital equipment. Towels, beach shoes, sun cream, a book, knitting needles and wool, sun glasses, tissues etc. Dressing for the beach was also of importance for ladies in those days, mother wearing a large floppy white sun hat, long pleated smart pink dress, white stockings and shoes. Eventually we left home and finally made the short walk down to the beach.
The chosen spot for us being just off the promenade, onto the beach and close to the left of the lounge theatre, now the Sailing Club premises. Mother had a deck chair, available from Greaves Brothers, the firm at that time hiring out deck chairs. I had gone off with my spade to make a sandcastle on the patch of sand further off, which was known to us as the soft sands. Although this patch of sand would always dry out first, and very quickly, but when still wet, or covered by a incoming tide, it became exceptionally soft, and it was disconcerting to both people paddling, or swimmers, as you would sink into the soft wet sand, which would cling to your feet and ankles, and seem as if it were sucking you down
I was digging away on the soft sands with my spade when to my delight, I uncovered an object that I immediately recognised as being a war time hand grenade. The grenade was painted white and complete with its arming handle, securing pin and pull ring. I was delighted, what a souvenir. I could take it home, show it around, and be the envy of my friends.
Finding the grenade did not alarm me, as during the war years I had often watched troops gathered on this part of the beach, and had noticed that they appeared to be throwing, or rather lobbing, objects. These objects I had later established as being hand grenades, and the colour of those grenades was white. As I had never seen any of grenades explode on these occasions I concluded that they were practice grenades.
Now I had one, and in a state of euphoria, I ran back towards my mother in her deck chair brandishing the grenade and shouting “look what I have found a hand grenade” My mother looked scared stiff, and as if she might become hysterical. The few other people sitting in nearby deckchairs also appeared to have panicked at the sight of a young boy brandishing a lethal grenade, and fled the beach in haste leaving some of their chairs overturned.
I was trying to calm my mother down by showing her the grenade, and attempting to explain that in any event it was safe, as it still had its pin in place. This only seemed to make matters worse, as she tried to hold me away from her at arms length. At this point the situation deteriorated further. For two men who had been sitting nearby, having seen their families off the beach to safety, had now returned, and were demanding that I hand my prize find over to them. I was not prepared to so, and tried to remonstrate with them by explaining to both, that the grenade was a harmless practice one, intact with its pin in This explanation was not acceptable. I was grabbed and the grenade forcibly removed.
The afternoon had not been a success, I was in a tantrum at losing my grenade, mother was crying in despair and worse there was mention that a telephone call had been made to the Police Station. Mother was insisting that we left the beach at once and complained to me non stop all the way home. Moreover, this was not to be the end of the matter, for when we reached home, grandfather had to calm down my near hysterical mother, and have the reason for her distress explained to him. Once again his grandson had let him down.
Well all this fuss for nothing, after all it was only a practice hand grenade, and not a live one, or was it?
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