Sunday, May 08, 2011


The newspaper announcement of my cousin Fred Scott’s death was brief, and submitted by part of his family. It was headed: Freddy Scott (MC). There has since been an obituary in The Daily Telegraph (25 April 2011).

As a very junior officer, Fred landed in German-held Normandy (between Caen and the sea) on D-Day with his platoon in a Horsa glider.

The Germans, being an orderly race, had positioned anti-glider spikes in straight lines where he was to land.

His pilots were rank novices, so Fred, who knew about map-reading, directed them in. And noticing the spikes in straight lines, ordered a landing so that the wings of his glider broke off on the obstructions, leaving the fuselage and all inside, shaken but unscathed.

He went on to achieve his objectives, pushing through France, Belgium, Holland and Germany, gaining rank and the Military Cross for valour (presented by Field Marshall Montgomery) en route. He ended in preventing the Russians from entering Denmark, mainly, in his account, by out-drinking them in vodka.

There are two stories about Fred that always please me.

When selling tobacco in Malaya for the company for which he worked before the war, his eccentric wife, Millie, was left a fine collection of pearls by her wealthy family in America.

Unable to receive them in the tropics, those in charge of this fine legacy were instructed to send them to Harrods, in London, for temporary safekeeping.

When Fred and Millie returned to England, they went to collect the goodies.

When the box was opened, all were aghast to find that due to being in a safe and unworn for many years, all were dead. Fred said that they looked absolutely horrible.

Harrods bought the many diamond clasps – and one string of dead pearls, just to show unbelievers what can happen to pearls that are locked away and not worn.

The other story I pared right down to send to the “Lives Remembered” column of The Times, should an obituary appear in that newspaper. It reads:

My cousin, Major Fred Scott MC, walked into a recruiting office and joined the wartime army as a Private soldier. He was put in charge of men who had passed through Courts of Justice and as punishment been given the choice of the mines or the army.

Fred was unable to open his locker as he had lost the key. He was given his own piece of wire and instructed by one of his charges in the art of how to gain entry.

His father, a Brigadier, newly stationed in the district, arranged to see his son. The Adjutant and others were dismissed from the room. Fred and his father were alone.

“And what have you learned in the army, Fred?”

“I’ve learned how to pick locks, sir.”

“Then open up that gas meter.”

Half crowns and florins fell to the floor.

“Now pick up those coins and lock it up again.”

“I’m sorry, sir,” replied Fred. “I have only learned to unpick locks.”