Wednesday, 16 July 2008


Well, I thought he was! Dad, that is, when he told me he was at Doolally! Where? says I. Doolally, says he! No such place, says I. Yes there is, says he! Right, OK, says I and left it at that thinking he'd finally, totally 'gone doolally' but also thinking - t'internet will sort it out ........... and it did and he hadn't nor wasn't, not really - LOL! This was how the story I referred to here started that day - after I'd told him about his Dad's WWI war medals.

Dad joined the Territorials before war broke out, at the age of 17.
When War was declared he was in Dover digging trenches for coastal defence and he spent some time on coastal defence, including shooting at doodlebugs as they came over - can you imagine shooting at doodlebugs with a little rifle?? He actually spent all of his time on defence, mainly guarding airfields while the bomber crews were out on raids then he was sent to Scapa Flow. He says he loved it there because it was so quiet. Not what you'd expect to hear from someone who spent around 18 months defending the place - lol! He was billeted near the Old Man of Hoy so he spent off-duty times walking to the Old Man and watching the seals. He was allowed to wear the Naval anchor badge, despite being Army, because he spent so long there guarding the base.
He was sent to India approx 1943 where he remained until the War was over. He missed the draft to the Khyber Pass due to fever and, once recovered, he was transferred to the Royal Infantry where he spent the rest of his time on guard duty’s and schemes (guess these are what we'd now call manoeuvres) preparing to go to Japan as part of the Army of Occupation. Before he could be transferred to Japan the Japanese surrendered and he received his demob. He spent quite a long time in India after the end of the war as he had to wait for transport home. He and his mates celebrated the end of the war by going to the pics (movies)!! Although offered the possibility of a flight home he chose, with the majority, to wait for a ship and that is when he went (to) ................ Doolally!!

Doolally is a place but not really called Doolally. It is actually called Deolali (where there was a British Army Camp) about 100 miles north-east of Bombay (Mumbai as it's now known). It was, from the 19th century, a transit camp where military personnel were sent to await transport home when they came to the end of their tour of duty. That wait could be long and boring and some servicemen suffered 'camp fever' - apparent madness caused by the long wait with nothing to do. The Brits - as ever, but why :o{{ - found Deolali hard to pronounce and it became known as Doolally and the slang term for going mad - Doolally Tap - was born (tap being the urdu for fever). Eventually it was shortened to 'doolally' meaning mad or eccentric. Here's a bit of trivia - Deolali was also the camp that was used for the location on the early series of the sitcom 'It Ain't Half Hot Mum' which was set in 1945. So ..... he hadn't gone 'doolally' but was sent to Doolally - LOL!!

That's a really brief version of Dad's wartime story, which never involved combat, else he may not still be here!

I knew he'd spent time in India because of the photo that I'd seen, as it was of him sitting in front of the Taj Mahal. I was soooooooooo looking forward to seeing that photo again and being able to use it, only to find that it no longer exists - :o((. When I mentioned the photo to Dad he remembered having it taken. I asked about the Taj Mahal - one building I'd love to visit - and I was really surprised to find that he couldn't tell me anything about it! He'd never seen it - LOL! Seems, even in those days, people were out to make money. You found a native taking photographs in the street, sat on a stool and you chose the backdrop curtain that you wanted and your choice was just pulled across behind you. There's me, with all these romantic images of Dad exploring the Taj Mahal and the nearest he got to it was about 300 miles away - lol! He did get to see a bit of India while he was there though, just not the Taj Mahal.

Although the photo of Dad in front of the Taj Mahal - not! - is no longer with us, I found this one of him. Taken in August 1943, it must have been taken just before he was sent to India (he may have been on embarkation leave) and it's the oldest photo there is of him .....

My Dad, August 1943, aged 21½

Thanks for dropping by .....


Liz said...

I loved your ramblings Pam about your Dad brought back a lot of memories for me. My uncle was a lighthouse keeper on the small island of Gramsay, which was the next island to Hoy. I spend my first ever holidays there when I was 10yrs old and went on a picnic with the Sunday School of Gramsay to Hoy and actually saw the 'Old Man of Hoy'. My dad used to sit and tell us stories of his time during the war and he always managed to make us laugh. x

Liz said...

Meant to say that I was on holiday with my mum and dad and we had to cross the Scapa Flow in a small rowing boat to get to the island of Gramsay. Not an experience I will ever forget!