MOTHS vet remembers war and belts out touching tune

2014-07-29 00:00

AN 89-year-old World War 2 veteran mesmerised an audience yesterday with his rendition of a song from the past.

Ron Wood, a member of the Memorable Order of Tin Hats (MOTHS), was born in Yorkshire, England, and fought in the Egypt’s Battle of El Alamein, which was the turning point of the war.

He spoke to The Witness yesterday at the Msunduzi/Voortrekker Museum at an event to commemorate the centenary of the First World War (WW1) and Second World War (WW2), which was fought 75 years ago yesterday.

Wood earlier captivated the audience by singing Come back to Sorrento in both Italian and English.

Even though he is 89, he says his memory is still good but he struggles to walk.

Wood, from Northern Park, said the war was so devastating that out of 38 of his classmates only eight survived.

“I was only 16 years old when I joined the British Royal Navy after being trained and I spent fours years in the war,” he said.

Wood was happy that after all these years he still kept his Yorkshire accent.

After the war, in 1956, he moved to Bulawayo where he worked until 1976, when he came to South Africa.

“I had to do night school after the war because I had … to catch up with my schooling.”

Wood said he enrolled for the Chartered Institute of Secretaries but could not complete the course due to the death of his father. “But I had gained knowledge which enabled me to work in various companies in the field of accounting and I also worked as a hotelier,” he said.

He said the war was terrible. “We can’t have war to achieve peace and I think another war would just be a futile exercise.”

A historian, Ganes Pillay, gave an account of WW1 in which thousands of British, Indian and German soldiers became casualties. “Never before in the history of mankind had there been a war where so many people perished,” he said.

He said it was characterised by the stench of death and rats.

The Battle of Nerve Chapelle in WW1 was fought in three days with a devastating 21 200 casualties, he said.

Patrick Voorma, a technical diver, uses his passion for diving to track down wreckage of submarines and ships that sunk in the Durban coast. “When we find them it is like physically touching history.”

The museum has opened an exhibition of memorabilia from both wars.

• thobani.ngqulunga@witness.co.za

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