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Re: Family connections
Posted by: Marty Lund (ID *****0245) Date: November 21, 2007 at 18:55:20
In Reply to: Family connections by Joseph Ibbitson of 58

Hello again!
I came across an article all aabout your Dad in the Canadian Legion magazine. He's quite a character! Its so good I'll copy it all here:

Canadian Legion Magazine: Oct 2003
Joseph Ibbitson of Gravenhurst, Ont., probably speaks for many contributors when he writes that reading in this column about the experiences of other veterans reminds him of some of his own. He undoubtedly echoes many readers when he says of his memories: "They may not be of interest to you but it gives me pleasure to recall them." Well, we beg to differ because we find his recollections fascinating.
The morning after arriving at the Royal Canadian Air Force reception centre at Bournemouth on the coast of the English Channel, Ibbitson joined the breakfast queue a little late. Just as he reached the servers they started to close the shutters, so he cried out: “My breakfast!”
“You’ve ‘ad it mate,” came the response. “No I haven’t. I just got here.”
The shutters closed anyway and a young Canadian airman had his first lesson in the English English language as spoken in England. Did not someone once say that Britain and North America were separated by a common language?
Ibbitson adds a footnote to his account of the experience just related. He says that some of the best-paid Royal Air Force types must have been servers in the troop train from Greenoch. Before pulling into King’s Cross Station in London, like all waiters, he says, they passed the hat around for tips. Many of the Canadians, assuming the currency they still carried from home to be useless overseas, threw what they had into the hat. The largest tip, we are informed, that our correspondent has ever given.
Following his posting to 405 Squadron at Pocklington in Yorkshire, Ibbitson befriended a local chap and spent many happy hours with him in the local Workmen’s Club in town. After 405 moved on, this particular Canadian airman returned for a visit—only to discover that his friend had been called up. However, his folks, who ran a fish and chip shop, invited our man to spend the night with them after he had renewed acquaintances at the Workmen’s Club. He gladly accepted.
Arriving at the home of his English friend’s parents—after over-imbibing at the club—his hosts presented him with a plate of fish and chips. It was the last thing he wanted. Not wishing them to think he was anything less than sober, he forced himself to clean up his plate and then spent most of the night in “the loo” instead of in the bed provided for him. When he ventured downstairs for breakfast the next morning they had a great laugh, saying that he had been so drunk he had eaten enough for two. No fooling these people, he realized.
Warming to his task, Ibbitson next tells us about the time he was spending his leave with a couple in Golders Green, as arranged by the local service organization. Because the designated hosts could not accommodate him the first night in London, he spent it with a bachelor.
Shown to his room, he found it heated by a gas fireplace. Noting the meter box unfastened, he recycled a few shillings through it and passed a very cozy night, all the while congratulating himself for cheating the gas company out of a few bob. Some time later he learned that the meter was read on emptying and that the difference had to be made up. His host must have been rather dismayed to have had his Canadian guest abuse his hospitality in this way.
On another occasion, while waiting for the bus to return to Topcliffe, where his squadron was located at the time, Ibbitson suddenly realized that he had left his gas mask somewhere. Dashing over to Betty’s Bar, the unofficial home to all members of the RCAF stationed anywhere near the ancient city of York, he selected the best-looking mask from the pile behind the bar. Some time later, during a gas drill, he stooped over, put his mask on and then could not straighten up. He had taken an army gas mask, designed to be worn on the chest with only a short connecting hose instead of the long one on the air force issue.
“Put that man on charge,” hollered the orderly officer. However, in the end, cooler heads prevailed and he was simply told to exchange the mask on his next visit to Betty’s—which he did.
Joe Ibbitson concludes his long e-mail by commenting that, like many other Canadians, he found the British wartime hospitality fantastic. Wearing the RCAF uniform seemed to open all doors; the mother country extended kindness and courtesy to the colonials “no matter how little we deserved it.”
Ironically, his own country, the Dominion of Canada, offered a different reception. Invalided home by hospital ship and train, Ibbitson says that whenever the train stopped to let people off there would be a big celebration, complete with a band, to welcome home the returning heroes. The stretcher cases could only look and listen. Those in the RCAF had first to go to Ottawa. When they arrived there their car was cut loose and left out in the yard while the local heroes received a royal welcome.
Quietly shipped to the hospital in ambulances, the wounded endured tests and interviews before another ambulance and train ride, in our patient’s case to a hospital in Toronto, his home town. After pulling into Union Station he had to await the disembarkation of all the regular passengers before he could trundle off the train himself. It was wonderful, he reports, to see his mother and friends again before moving to another hospital, but not quite the gala welcome he and his buddies had all joked about around a cold stove in England.
While our correspondent considers this as not really Humour Hunt material, we are not so sure. Sometimes there is room for a wry smile as well as the belly-aching laugh.
At 84 years of age and waiting for another valve job on the old ticker (at least when he wrote October 2003), Joe Ibbitson finds himself looking back nostalgically to the days when he was young and fit and plunged into a life completely different from the one he knew in the safety and security of home. Memory is a marvellous thing, he offers, the happy times seem to overshadow other kinds. Like nearly all who survived, he remembers those days as a time in his life when the adventure and excitement was priceless.


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