Tomorrow is my father’s funeral. David Anthony will be carried into St Michael’s Church, Ledbury, wearing his Royal Tank Regiment tie. Dad served as a tankie during his National Service, single-handedly saving western Germany from the Russian invaders. He profoundly resented the time he had to waste, serving King and Country, and the bloody politicians – indeed he spent much of his retirement reading, with relish, various accounts of high-ranking military incompetence.
Even so, he is wearing his Royal Tank Regiment tie, because he was immensely proud of his time as a Tankie. He would never have expressed it as “service”, but that’s what it was.
Twenty years ago I heard Bill Bragg’s song, Tank Park Salute. Bragg was also, briefly, a tankie, and his father was a tankie during World War Two. Following the death of his father Bragg wrote this song which expresses the eternal wonder of the relationship between son and father: the questions the father can answer, the safety he provides, the hero he becomes. It is an eternal wonder because, even though death leaves us bewildered that the permanent presence of our father is gone, the connection between father and son remains.
Tomorrow I will give the address at my father’s funeral. It won’t be a tank park salute; it won’t be nearly as worthy of him as that. But in the back of my mind will be Bragg’s words, “to remind me that I’m but my father’s son”.