I don’t think the name Bampap is one that is used universally. In fact I’m pretty sure it was created and remained within the confines of my family. My mother, as a toddler, referred to her grandfather as “Bampap” – a young child’s attempt to say “granddad” perhaps – and the name kind of stuck. When I and my sisters were born 20 years later the title was passed onto us as if it were the norm. So our granddad, my mother’s father, was always known as Bampap. Not being a particularly observant child it was years before I realized that other families didn’t have a Bampap.
You may disagree but I think that they missed out.
This first photo was taken in 1942. The place is obvious. My granddad – Bampap – and his mates are plainly on shore leave, a few precious days on land before returning to sea and the war. In the years before he died Bampap spoke almost wistfully of his war years. His memories of Cairo seemed to revolve around the street names where all the best whorehouses were and the advice given to all the men by the ship’s doctor. If you’ve been with one of the girls go and see a one of the city doctors before you come back to the ship – their medical supplies were extremely limited and if you came on board with the clap you were liable to be stuck with it for months until you struck land again.
He never said if he’d indulged and I didn’t ask. It wouldn’t have been the gentlemanly thing to do.
I apologize for the quality of the photo – but, hey, it is over 50 years old and the camera would have been rough and ready. Here is a blown up shot of my granddad. He’s the guy in the middle with the fabulous nose. He kept that nose and that body shape for all of his life. Always remaining trim and with a beak that somehow didn’t mar his looks.
Years later in 1999 I made my own journey to Egypt and here is a photo of me standing in roughly the same place as my granddad over 50 years later. I don’t cut a dash in the same way, do I? I’m thankful that he was able to see this photo before macular degeneration robbed him of 90% of his eyesight a few years later.
My one regret is not writing down the names of Bampap’s war mates. He had many and there are lots of photos of them. Photos of young boys who look cheery, chirpy and cheeky despite being in the middle of a war. If you believe the mood of the photos they are on holiday; a foreign cruise; out on the pull. That so wasn’t the case. I think my granddad was the only one of his little group who made it home again. I once made the comment that I bet he knew who his mates were in those tough times. He only nodded and said “yes, and I lost them all.” There’s not much you can say to that.
This last photo was taken in 1975. And yes, the boy in the picture with the NHS glasses is me. The girl is my oldest sister. I have no idea where this photo was taken or by whom. It can’t have been my Nan because our heads are all in shot. She’d have cut them off or else chopped off our feet instead.
This is how I like to remember him. The sharp beak which protruded from eyes that were always mischievous and kind. The smart blazer with the naval insignia he was so proud of sewn onto the breast pocket. The awkward love and protectiveness that he always exuded.
His presence always made us feel safe as kids. I think that comes over in the photo. Wherever we are, we’re more than happy to be there.
He’d have been 90 today.