Lawlessly Yours - World War left its mark

Bill Lawless
Bill Lawless

My first war wound was inflicted when I was six.

I was examining a recently bombed house near our home in Hyde, Cheshire (now demoted to Greater Manchester) with a little light looting in mind, and broke my ankle on some rubble.

I hobbled around like a blitz victim in plaster and on a crutch and was delighted with the sympathetic looks received.

Well, come on, I was a sort of Luftwaffe victim, was I not?

Meanwhile, my dear old dad, who liberated France from D-Day onwards and did so without a scratch, except for piles brought on by a combination of bully beef and the necessity to emulate bears in the woods, suffered from them for the rest of his life.

‘I am a martyr to my bum,’ he used to say, scratching furtively.

He came home with a medal which I have to this very day.

It was a German decoration called the “Mothers’ Cross” and was awarded to German frauleins who did something special in the way of producing babies and future cannon fodder for the Third Reich.

Dad never said how he acquired this, but I know it made my mother cross. One other thing I know: the award was not pinned on his broad chest by Hitler, Goering or any other of the top loonies.

He may well have done something special for a German mother quite unofficially who valued his services as well as tins of corned beef.

I will leave this subject now in view of The Visitor’s reputation as a family newspaper.

He was a nice man with a nose that had seen some trouble; a memento from his time as a professional boxer.

He used to talk of ‘the luck of the Lawless’ and the star shone hard and bright for him in 1942.

Dad was to fight an exhibition bout with, I think, British champion Len Harvey at Aldershot.

The army was great on staging sporting occasions “to keep the chaps entertained” and this was deemed to be so important that he was held back when his regiment was shipped overseas.

It came to pass that he was in the ring with his nose undergoing more punishment from Harvey’s educated fists when the troopship was torpedoed by a U-Boat and many of his mates were killed.

This was about the time dad started to read the bible – and did so until he died at the early age of 64.

What with the war years and a family split I didn’t see very much of him and I often wish I’d known him better.

I’m feeling a bit emotional at the moment so I’ll cheer myself up with that rarity in my repertoire – a clean joke:

This man in a search for peace and quiet joined a monastic order and was sworn to silence except the brothers were allowed to speak two words to the abbot every two years. On the first occasion he said “food’s awful”. Two years later he said “no telly”. At the third meeting he said: “I’m quitting.” Said the abbot: “Thank God for that. You’ve done nothing but complain since you came here.”