(“Aboard the USS St. Paul (a cruiser) in Singapore harbour with my US Navy host.”)
On October 7, 1942, at the age of 15 1/2, my father William Henry (Harry) Davison, who was born in the Whiterock area of Belfast in Ireland, enlisted in the British Army to escape what he called “a dead-end job” at the linen mill back home.
He was assigned for the first 3 years to the Southernmost part of England in Berkshire, Hampshire and Kent.
Many years later, in a letter to a family member, he wrote, “In Hampshire, I saw all the goings-on for D-Day, but was not involved in that, as I was too young. I spent the years from 1947 to 1949 in Germany, from 1949 to 1952 in Malaya, Singapore and Hong Kong and the final year of my Army service, in Hampshire until discharge from the Army in May 1953.
(As written on back: Port of Singapore waterfront. November 1949.)
“Discharged on 4th May, I didn’t even go back to Belfast, but did visit my Mother, who lived then with an invalid brother, Patrick, in Portsmouth. The 16th May was the day on which I departed by ship for Canada.”
My father often talked of Hong Kong, Singapore and Malaya with great fondness. He was the sort of man who, if he saw someone who even looked remotely Asian, would make his way up to them and strike up a conversation. It gave him great pleasure to spout a few (albeit broken) words of Chinese or talk of particular districts in the cities he remembered so well. My dad loved to interact with people of all kinds—he was a man who would literally give you the shirt off his back.
My mother tells me of a cold day when he came home from work in the downtown core of Toronto without the big wool sweater his own mother had knitted for him and sent overseas. When my Mom asked him where the sweater was, he responded, “I saw this fella who looked really cold…”
I think his Army days and experience with people from all walks of life all over Europe and Asia gave him a real feel for his fell0w-man. He loved everybody.
“Taken in Singapore on the US cruiser St. Paul in the year of 1950 if my memory serves me properly.”
Oops! Almost forgot, if you’d like to see more great photographs, visit the Sepia Saturday blog where you’ll find links to everyone who’s playing along. Feel free to join in!