|Major Hugh Miller RASC. 1944|
There are some moments of one's life that one wishes one could do again. Meeting my father Major Hugh Miller is one of them. To say it was a disaster does not do it justice. It was one of those events from which the whole family, especially my father never recovered and in some ways neither did I.
Wars cannot be helped. My father left for North Africa just before I was born and did not return until Christmas 1946. I was nearly four. Since I could remember I was shown this photo above and told he was my Daddy. I was oh so proud of it. I was told by all the family that I would meet my father off a big boat one day.
Christmas 1946 was that day. I lived with my two maiden aunts, my grandmother and my grandfather. Pop was the only man in my life up until them and I adored him and in fact he was my father. I had no need of another.
In hindsight the family should have had a plan as how to tackle the momentous occasion but they didn't. My father just turned up at 6 pm at Taplow on Christmas Eve, in battle dress, unshaved and off the boat. To make matters worse he hadn't phoned my mother but had gone straight to Edgware to see his mother first without telling his wife. My mother felt slighted.
My mother was off to a Christmas dance and was all dressed up to go out with her dancing partner Dennis so was not amused that Daddy had not warned her and Daddy was not too delighted to see his wife going out dancing with another man however innocent.
I remember coming down the stairs at Thamesway and seeing this soldier who I did not recognize in the hall. The whole family was assembled as they were there for Christmas so it was a very public first meeting. I was terrified of soldiers as I knew they had tanks! One of the family not my mother told me to come downstairs and meet my father.
Daddy squatted down on the hall floor and opened his kit bag which was full of sweets. I had never in my life seen this many sweets before. In the war we did not get sugar let alone sweets. He had saved his sweet ration for me. It was a lovely thing to do.
I overcame my fear rushed to the sweets. The whole family was agog to witness my reaction. Daddy clasped me to him and gave me a kiss. His unshaved face graised my cheek and I recoiled and pulled away screaming "Daddy prickles" and ran away upstairs. I could not be coaxed down again.
Eventually I was put to bed. I slept with my mother but now my father usurped my place. I had his uncomfortable a camp bed. I resented this strange man coming into my life. To make matters worse I was not given the sweets. These disappeared as my family helped themselves.
I do not think Mummy, Daddy or I ever truly recovered from this first meeting. In retrospect it should have been planned very carefully. I should have been warned a few days before and Daddy should have looked as he did in his photo in his Major's uniform. He was truly handsome in real life.
The next day I spent hours searching the large garden for the rowing boat! I knew my father had arrived in one and I wondered where he had parked it!
It wasn't there!