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What can I do with my grandfather's old WW2 memorabilia?


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Hallo Gents, :cheers:

recently on-line I came across this post:

What can I do with my grandfather's old WW2 memorabilia?

I literally have boxes of the stuff from his service (1938-58) that I have come in to possession of after the death of my grandma. He reached the rank of RSM and fought in North Africa and Burma, and formed part of Heilie Sellasie's personal bodyguard. He also served as a chindit.

I have items of uniform, an old Vickers (?!), medals, archaeological relics, hunted furs, a dispatch motorcycle, and letters addressed personally to him by the Ethiopian Emperor (thank you for your brotherly kindness, I will always remember your service, please visit again soon), Monty (good work RSM, you are a credit to the Army, stay in touch) and the King (your work and sacrifice for this glorious Empire will be spoken of by your family for a hundred generations... thanks to your contributions to the war effort the sun will not set on our sceptred Isle for another thousand years)...

...he knew these men personally, I have photos of him with them during and after WW2. What should I do with it all?

Additional Details

Obviously I would never dream of selling them or throwing them away. But should I keep them for my own family, or loan them to the government/ British museum/ regimental assoc.?

I stress all his letters are hand-written to him, and aren't generic de-mob letters (he appears to have been on first-name terms with the King, Monty and Heile).

I emailed the poster for more info, particularly the RSM name, and he replied with the following:

"From: Monty

Subject: A little background for you- any factual errors are mine. Hope this clears a few things up.

Message: Hello, thanks for your interest. First let me tell you what I know about my grandfather's service- it's patchy at best, and he died long before I was old enough to understand any of it.

He joined the Royal Signals in '38 as a dispatch rider, as he was a medal-winning motorcyclist as a civilian. He was sent to north Africa to relay messages between Selassie and Monty and swiftly became a senior NCO. He learned to speak Swahili like a native and was thus appointed to the King's African Rifles as RSM.

From Africa he was sent to Burma to command a 'black contingent' fighting the jungle war against the Japanese, where he was later attached to the Gurkhas after that whole disasterous affair. He commanded a Gurkha unit until he was court-marshalled for letting one of his men cut off the hand of an unruly Allied pilot with his Kukri and reduced to a Sergeant, when he recieved notification from Monty (another letter I have) that the Field Marshal was not happy with his treatment and that he wanted him to be a part of the Chindits. He accepted and was re-instated as RSM.

After '46 he returned to Africa and settled for a short while in Kenya where he worked as a tracker, later fighting the Mau Mau. Then with the coming of African independence he enlisted in the Rhodesian Light Infantry as a senior NCO, eventually travelling north to fight as a hired gun in the Belgian Congo. This marked the end of his military career.

Pure Fantasy or any kernel of truth, I have never heard about this before, and you will also notice he also managed to avoid giving a name in his reply

Kevin in Deva. :beer:

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Kev,

You never know do you as to be honest I couldn't even dream half of that up without an acquired knowledge of military history. For instance he could well have been a DR at Monty's H.Q. and may have been mentioned for good work. Both the 11th and 12th(African)Divisions served in Somaliland and Abyssinia, both assisting in the capure of Addis Abbaba.

The other bits may not be too far fetched either and if the person in question did live in Kenya as many whites did in the 1930's then picking up Swahili wouldn't be a problem and the K.A.R. did infact serve in Burma. For instance the 81st(West African)Divsion did serve in the 14th Army and one Brigade of it did serve with Orde Wingate's "Special Force". Specialist Signals personnel would be attached to where ever their expertise was needed the most.

Obviously I've had to dig this out of books and Monty didn't appear in North Africa until 1941, but unless you know about this sort of thing your historical timing would be well out. Difficult to say whether it's fantasy or not, best to keep an open mind until disproven.

Graham.

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Hallo Graham. :cheers:

thats why I posted it here, as we share a wealth of knowledge amongst our members,

instead of jumping to the conclusion they are totally wrong, unless its known before hand.

Still as the person in question rates as a R.S.M. then it should be recorded somewhere.

As would the the incident with regards lopping off of a unruly Allied pilot's hand :o

Kevin in Deva. :cheers:

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Kev

My first reaction - based on gut feelings alone, I freely confess - was 'highly improbable'. There is one demonstrable error, however: Ethiopians don't speak Swahili, even as a trade language: it's confined to East Africa (Kenya, Uganda and so on). So I'm not sure why he'd have learned it in Ethipia, rather than Amharic, the official language there, nor why The King of Kings and Lion of Judah would have had a (white) British bodyguard when he had a large, fierce army of his own. Never mind the, to me, inherent improbability of a sergeant, or even an RSM, popping from theatre to theatre to theatre.

Sounds like someone's fantasy to me.

My tuppence worth.

Peter

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Maybe-I suspect the RSM rank was an Ethiopian rank, but the Emperor did have white bodyguards (no messy clan ties)-and hired a whole series of mercenaries to train his guerrillas after the Italians over ran Ethiopia in 1937.

I've met enough people in my life who had a similar background to go hmmmm...trust but verify. But real people with odd backgrounds like this do exist.

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  • 1 month later...

I once met a fellow who had a story nearly this strange. Not going into details, he was in Indian before the war, spent a few months really early on in Egypt (transport left him off and with only a few brigades in all of North Africa they wouldn't let him leave) and then, if I remember correctly, was at Imphal. The only thing I found hard to beleive about it was that he was about Europe for the very end of the war. I can't remember what unit he was with, I think it was a group of Ghurkas. I do remember, though, that the first time I met him I also met his 'Batman.' Now, to call him a batman wouldn't really be correct, I guess they were Army buddies and they ended up together after the war. They would actually speak in some Indian language all the time, can't remember what it was. The Indian fellows name was Thaman something-or-another, which I think is Nepalese.

~TS

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