Two Grandfathers

The other week I requested the National Archives digitize the WWII service records for my maternal and paternal grandfathers. I’ve just received emails pointing me to their files.

My maternal grandfather, Kenneth Donald Dyke – we called him Don – was 23 years 11 months and a journalist in Sydney when he joined up. He had already married my grandmother and they had the first of their four daughters. His record was peppered with things like missing roll call and being AWL that kept him fairly lowly in the ranks. He was sent overseas but I haven’t properly inspected the records to really understand where he went when.

This is him in 1940 when he joined up.

My paternal grandfather (that’s him when he joined up), George Griffiths – we called him Pappy – was a train driver in country WA and was 26 years and 9 months when he joined up. He was single but married not long after the war started. He joined the air force, after passing numerous tests, including asking “can rough it?”. He said yes. Pappy served in Melbourne and Sydney and used to tell us that he saw the Japanese submarines in Sydney Harbour when flying over the water one day. His service record is more earnest than Don’s. He didn’t get into any trouble  – at least nothing that made it to his file (but he was a mischief maker). I did learn that he had “extensive brown birthmarks on right buttock”. Never knew that! Included in his file are three references about his good character (awww) and a letter from my grandmother, written in 1976, in her very familiar handwriting, asking about his war pension as she wanted him to stop working before he had a heart attack. It was very surprising and lovely to see that in there.

I love the photos best of all. These are the young men who would become the old men of my memory and who are no longer here but still well loved and remembered. Is it surprising that both of them joined up and survived? I’m not sure. But I’ve very glad that they lived long and happy lives and that I got to know them.

And my youngest brother looks so much like Don at 23.


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