The brick wall

One thing that I warned about by someone just after my father died was that, at some point during the days after his funeral, I would hit ‘the brick wall’. The need to organise the funeral and everything else associated with my father’s death meant that for some time I have been running on adrenaline. I have slept badly, woken up with a headache which has stayed with me all day, had almost constant indigestion, and felt lethargic and unable to concentrate … but I have let none of that stop me from doing what had to be done.

Today I hit the brick wall. I still have the symptoms, but the adrenaline seems to have stopped flowing … and I can barely summon up the energy to walk and talk. All I want to do is sleep. What little concentration I have has almost completely gone (I have been trying to write this blog entry for over fifteen minutes already!) and I seem to have developed levels of clumsiness I had not realised I was capable of achieving.

I have spent the day poodling around doing the absolute minimum, and the day seems to have drifted by in a haze. Hopefully a good night’s sleep will help, but if it doesn’t I am faced with the prospect of a longish haul back to normality.

RSM Arthur Jackson

The recent death of my father has brought all sorts of things to light, including some photographs of my maternal grandfather, Arthur Jackson. He was a member of the Territorial Army before the Second World War, and was mobilised in September 1939. His unit was sent to France to be part of the BEF (British Expeditionary Force) and he was evacuated from Dunkirk. He was extremely lucky to have been evacuated as he had been wounded and a large number of the wounded were left behind to become prisoners of war.

Once he had recovered he was on active service for the rest of the war, and ended it as a Troopship’s Regimental Sergeant Major. (He was in charge of the administration and onboard discipline of military personnel travelling aboard troopships.) His work took him to almost every theatre of operations, and he was awarded:

  • The War Medal 1939-1945
  • The 1939-1945 Star
  • The Italy Star
  • The Atlantic Star
  • The Burma Star
  • The Pacific Star (I don’t think that he should have been awarded the Pacific Star as he had already qualified for the Burma Star. What he should have been awarded was a clasp to the Burma Star.)

Relaxing aboard ship … with a bottle of beer.

Musical entertainment aboard a troopship.

After he was demobbed, my maternal grandfather worked as an ornamental blacksmith, and I understand that he produced some of the gates mounted at the entrances of several Commonwealth War Graves Commission cemeteries in Europe. I was only young when he died, but I am proud to have had Arthur as my maternal grandfather.

An aside: Some years ago I had to address a meeting at the Royal Artillery Museum, Woolwich. As I was handed the microphone by Major General Michael Steele, the PA system stopped working. When I made the comment that both my father and my grandfather had been senior Royal Artillery NCOs, and that if I could not make myself heard using just my own voice, then I was a disgrace to my forebears, everyone in the room laughed! None of them had any problem hearing what I had to say … and Gunners are notorious for having bad hearing.

My father’s funeral

It was my father’s funeral yesterday … and his family and friends did their utmost to give him the sort of send off he would have wanted and enjoyed. There was a nice mixture of solemnity and humour, with a touch of tradition.

The music played included some of his favourite tunes:

  • AMERICAN PIE written and sung by Don McLean
  • THAT’S LIFE written by Dean Kay & Kelly Gordon, and sung by Frank Sinatra
  • JERUSALEM written by William Blake & Hubert Parry, and sung by the King’s College Choir, Cambridge
  • THE LAST POST, a traditional trumpet call of the British Army, played by the Band of the Royal Marines
  • I’M FOREVER BLOWING BUBBLES sung by the West Ham United Cup Squad

I read a short history of my father’s life, my sister read a poem she had written, his grandchildren spoke about what my father had been like to have as a grandfather, and my brother finished off with some observations about my father’s attitude to life and how he acted as a role model for the entire family.

After the funeral we had a wake, during which members of the extended family exchanged news and told lots of stories about my father.

It was a great pity that he was not there, as he would have enjoyed himself no end.

My father, George Cyril Cordery, in 1945.

My father at the 61st Anniversary of Operation Varsity, held at FIREPOWER, the Royal Artillery Museum, Woolwich.

The Fool on the Hill

It is just after 2.00am on the morning of 1st April and I cannot sleep. The events of the past week have been playing havoc with my ability to sleep regularly, and I feel emotionally and physically drained.

For the sake of something to do I sat down at my computer to read my emails … and read the following comment in reply to my blog entry about Operation Sealion:

The German list is rubbish. Both Scharnhost and Gniesenau were unavailable due to damage sustained in the Norwegian campaign. The largest ship available to the Germans was the Admiral Hipper.

The RN would have been happy to sacrifice half its strength to defeat Sealion. Air supremacy was never the issue; this is a post war myth fostered by the RAF.

I take it that the person who made this comment read all the documents that I made available, and felt that there was a need to put me straight about my errors.

What I find interesting is that I actually spent a lot of time researching the information contained in these documents. I went to the Imperial War Museum’s library and the National Archives and read the Minutes of some of the meetings that were held in the Admiralty. The Admiralty thought that Scharnhorst and Gneisenau were seriously damaged, but expected that the Kriegsmarine would do all in their power to make them available to support Operation Sealion. They were therefore included in the possible list of ships that the Royal Navy might have to face. The fact that these ships were under repair is made clear in the Kriegsmarine‘s own Fleet List.

As to the Royal Navy’s willingness to risk their ships in an environment where the Royal Air Force did not control the skies over Southern England … well the Admiralty Minutes suggest that in the circumstances they expected to lose several large warships and to suffer heavy casualties, but that they would do their utmost to destroy any invasion fleet.

So how do I feel now?

Frankly, very upset and annoyed … and giving serious consideration to getting up and walking away from blogging. I think that on today of all days (it is April Fool’s Day after all) that I have been made to feel very foolish for sharing the results of my extensive research with other people. I am the Fool on the Hill … and in my present state of mind it is not a nice feeling.

Making progress

Today saw us make significant progress towards sorting out our father’s funeral and his estate. My brother and I booked the venue for the post-funeral wake, visited my father’s solicitor and collected his will, ordered the flowers for the funeral, and visited two banks to notify them of our father’s death.

We also managed to visit the Registrar in order to make an appointment tomorrow afternoon so that we could register our father’s death. Once that is done we can go back to the banks to begin the process of winding up our father’s affairs. All that will then remain to do is to send out funeral notices to family and friends, finalise the details of the funeral, print the Order of Service for the funeral, and apply for probate … if it is necessary.

Then we can relax … until the day of the funeral.

An answer at last!

I think that it is Murphy’s Law that states that ‘if something can go wrong, it will do‘ … and today has been a fine example of this.

I was wondering why the previously helpful Coroner’s Office was not answering their telephones this morning … when they telephoned me … and apologised for the problems I might have had contacting them. It transpired that late yesterday the entire computer system in the Coroner’s Office had stopped working, and that this had knocked out the telephones as well. They had only just got the system back online at about 10.15am, and were trying to make up for lost time.

They now had the results of the post mortem, and a certificate of death has been issued and will be posted to the Registrar later today. With luck my brother and I will be able to register my father’s death on Thursday, and then we can begin to sort out his funeral and his estate.


I am growing more and more frustrated with the bureaucracy one has to deal with when someone dies.

Last Friday my brother and I had all sorts of problems even contacting the Bereavement Office at Queens Hospital, Romford, and when we finally made it through the hospital’s security system they were singularly unhelpful … and very unsympathetic.

We were eventually informed that because the cause of my father’s death was ‘unknown’, the Coroner would have to determine the actual cause of death. This might require a post mortem examination, which we were told would be done on Monday. I was assured – by the Coroner’s Officer I spoke to – that the results should be available on Monday, and that I would be informed of them that afternoon by telephone.

I was not.

I have been trying to contact the Coroner’s Office since 8.00am this morning … but when I get through to the number I have been given, all I hear is a recorded message that tells me that they are very busy, and that I should call back later. More than two hours later … and after more than twenty attempts … I am still trying to find out what the results of the post mortem are. Until the Coroner determines the cause of death, my family and I cannot register the death or begin any of the definite arrangements for my father’s funeral.

It is all very frustrating.

Sitting and waiting

I have spent much of today sitting and waiting for the results of my father’s post mortem examination.

Until the Coroner has a definite cause of death, my father’s body cannot be released … and until this happens all the arrangements for the funeral and sorting out my father’s estate have to be put on ‘hold’. I have managed to write a few letters thanking people for the help and care they gave to my father whilst he was alive, and I have roughed out the design for the Order of Service and invitations for the funeral, but I am fast running out of things to occupy my mind. On top of this I have a feeling of lethargy and fatigue, which I understand is common when people are dealing with bereavement.

I am thinking about having a proper look at my MEGABLITZ collection, and sorting out the unassigned bases into larger formations. It will give me something to do, and will hopefully keep my mind occupied for an hour or two.

The Good, the Bad, and the Indifferent

The past few days have made me realise how many good people there are in the world … and this throws into stark focus those who are bad and indifferent.

The Good

  • All the people who have sent their condolences to my family and I in response to my blog entries, my recent status reports on my Facebook page, and to my personal telephone calls and emails. A thank you to you all … and an apology as well; I just wish that I had the time to thank you all individually.
  • The staff at the Chaseview Nursing Home, Rush Green, who made my father’s last few hours as comfortable as possible, and who did all they could to keep him alive as his breathing problems became worse.
  • The paramedics from the London Ambulance Service, who helped the staff at Chaseview Nursing Home resuscitate my father when his heart stopped, and who got him to the Accident and Emergency Department at Queens Hospital, Romford as quickly as they could.
  • The staff of the Accident and Emergency Department at Queens Hospital, Romford, who made my father as comfortable as they could, thus enabling him to die with dignity.
  • The staff of the Co-operative Funeral Care branch in Upminster, Essex, who helped (and continue to help) my family and I to arrange my father’s funeral so that it is exactly the way he would have wanted it to be.

The Bad and the Indifferent

  • The staff of the Bereavement Office at Queens Hospital, Romford, who did not answer their telephones for nearly two hours (the ‘phones just rang and rang without being picked up or a recorded message being left), and who – when we finally managed to get through the security system that ‘protects’ them from having to deal with directly the public – showed little or no consideration for the bereaved families they were dealing with. (The reason they gave for not answering their telephones was that they were all attending a meeting, and were ‘unavailable’ to deal with bereaved families and to issue Certificates of Death.)

More Good

  • The Coroner’s Officer who patiently and carefully explained that my father’s death was going to require a post mortem examination because the doctor who had dealt with my father in the Accident and Emergency Department at Queens Hospital, Romford felt unable to sign the Certificate of Death. (The reason for this was that the doctor had not known that my father had only been discharged from hospital less than 24-hours beforehand. The Coroner’s Officer had also not been informed of this by the hospital.)

Operation Varsity

Today marks the 68th anniversary of Operation Varsity, the largest single airborne operation of World War II.

My very recently deceased father took part in the operation as a member of 53rd (Worcestershire Yeomanry) Airlanding Light Regiment, Royal Artillery, and he was the only veteran who attended the special commemorative event held at Firepower, the Royal Artillery Museum, in 2006.

He was treated as an honoured guest by the museum staff and the members of the 89th (Parachute)/317th (Airborne) Field Security Sections re-enactment group. The latter were portraying 53rd (Worcestershire Yeomanry) Airlanding Light Regiment, Royal Artillery at the event, and my father had several photographs taken with them.

At the time my father had not begun to show signs that he was developing dementia, and he thoroughly enjoyed the entire day. In fact it was probably one of the most enjoyable and memorable times that I ever spent with my father. He was reliving his youth … and for a few brief hours he was eighteen again.