Ray's War


So, most of us are lucky that we have never known what it was like to be at War. However, all too many people born during the previous two centuries experienced the horrors of battle.

One such person was my father, Ray, who sadly died ten years or so ago (standing top left in the picture at the head of the website). I always knew he had a set of diaries he wrote during WWII but I was never interested in reading them, or finding out more about what war was like for him. In fact, if he ever mentioned the war we would just groan and say it was 'sooooo boring'. And of course, now it's too late to chat to him about it.

However, what I do have are these diaries; a stash of 12 tiny little books packed with his spidery writing in fountain pen, detailing his life as he went from a boy to a man. He was only 20 when war was declared and, I think, relatively young for his age. He was just starting out on a career and still going to Scouts. And yet, very soon he got called up and his life as a soldier (a Signalman attached to the 16th/5th Lancers) began, whether he wanted it or not.

I have now made it my task to type up his diaries and although I'm only on the second one, I can see how formative this experience was for him – learning how to become a fighting machine while, at the same time, falling in love with a young woman called Eileen whose letters mean more to him than I can possibly imagine as his life becomes one with such an uncertain future. Having the love of someone (other than your mum) who wants nothing more than for you to come home must feel pretty much more important than anything. And yet, I have no idea what happens to him and Eileen (given that she's not my mother!) so I am going to have to wait for all to be revealed as I get typing.

As there is so much still to type, and as there are many words I can't read because of his tiny writing or because I don't know the army lingo, I thought I'd start publishing Ray's War more as I go – and hopefully if anyone reads them and has more insight into war, force's terms etc, maybe you can help me plug any gaps or make any corrections where you think I've guessed the wrong word. I've highlighted words or just put question marks etc where I'm really not sure what he wrote.

So I hope you enjoy reading the true life diaries of my father, Raymond Henry Perolls, and finding out at the same time as me what life was like in those weeks running up to his call up papers arriving, where he ends up and, of course, what happens to his romance with Eileen during his years at war.

Susan Perolls

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