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Old 13th Jan 2005, 11:06   #1
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Join Date: 21 May 2003
Location: Farnham, UK
Posts: 3,288

Originally Posted by Wavid
gil! I demand you tell us more about your father and the Spanish Civil War! I do remember distantly in Palimpular past that you have some connection with old Eric Blair - is this how that came about?
The answer to this is quite complicated. I'll summarise. My father came from a long line of Scottish folk, and would, in the normal course of events, have had a simple life as a history teacher in Edinburgh. He was, however, a life-long anti-Communist. As a young man, he got in with some young Edinburgh Italians who were joining Franco's side in The Civil War, and they went and joined up. He found some difficulty in maintaining sympathy with the events, and with a couple of his Italian companions went to Italy to support Mussolini. In due course he became one of Il Duce's bodyguard. Before the war started, however, he was told he had to decide what side he was fighting on. He returned to Scotland and was immediately imprisoned for six months without trial, then released on condition he joined the army, which he did. He spoke fluent Italian, so he was taken into the Intelligence Corps. When he confessed why he spoke Italian so well, they pragmatically sent him to India and taught him Japanese. He spent the rest of the war parachuting into Burma behind Japanese lines with a detachment of Ghurkas, intercepting Japanese dispatches and translating them. After the war, he received some kind of hush-hush decoration from Mountbatten, who reckoned his work saved thousands of Allied lives.

He and Blair met after the war. I don't know the details. They were left-wing Socialist versus right-wing Socialist, if you like, but both had experience of the nastiness of war and they eschewed the extremists of their respective "sides", and had a lot of common ground.

He spent the rest of his life in the Far East, as a teacher, headmaster, and, eventually, Deputy Director of Education in Brunei. He spoke three dialects of Chinese, Urdu, Burmese, Malay and most European languages. He could write Chinese and Kanji freehand.
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