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D-Day: My Granddad Teddy’s Experience

69 years ago yesterday my granddad, Teddy Williams, took part in the D Day landings. A Guernsey man, he joined up in June 1940 with five of his colleagues from the Guernsey Press . They caught the Glen Tilt (it was ferrying men of fighting age to the mainland to sign up) to Weymouth , from where they were taken to Portland Barracks. My granddad joined the Cornwall Light Infantry, took the oath and received 3s and 6d.

By the time of the Normandy landing he had already seen action as a Desert Rat and the invasion of Siciliy. In fact, he nearly never made it to Normandy at all as the American naval vessel that was carrying him from Folkestone to Juno Beach was accidentally rammed by a British destroyer, HMS Warspite. They lost one of the ramps in the incident, meaning my granddad and his fellow troops had to scramble ashore as best they could. In haste my granddad jumped in to what he thought was shallow water but it actually came over his head.  He tried to swim up and couldn’t because of the weight of his kit. Then he felt a hand on his back and he was lifted up until he was able to find his footing and scramble up the beach. He never knew who helped him that day.

By this time, the troops in the first landing managed to fight their way up the beach and were penetrating inland. This gave my granddad and the other Pioneers the chance to establish petrol dumps ashore. The fuel was ferried by amphibious vehicles from vessels standing offshore.

Granddad and his unit landed on Juno Beach and were attached to Canadian troops who he followed through to Hamburg. Every night, Canadian trucks would travel to the front lines to recover the dead, and the bodies were brought to where the Pioneers had set up a moving base. The corpses were unloaded and the vehicles refuelled.

He later received a medal for being one of the thousands of troops engaged in the first 20 days of the invasion.

And how do I know such detailed information? Characteristically of those who served in the war, granddad never really spoke about it. In 2004 though, to mark the 60th Anniversary of D-Day, my granddad’s old employer, the Guernsey Press, wrote an article about him. He sent a copy to each of his daughters (my mum Ann and my auntie Barbara) and across the top he wrote “thought you might like to see this.” I am holding that paper in my hands now granddad and I just want to say a sincere thank you to you – and all of those involved on that day. You changed the world.

 

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Prince William is preparing for Fatherhood with Commando Dad

BREAKING NEWS: Prince William has swelled the ranks and is using Commando Dad to help prepare him for fatherhood.

wills

Wow.

You can read the article from The Daily Mail here, and The Telegraph here.

 

It was always my intention to get this book into the hands of every new dad and dad to be. The fact that Prince William is using the book – and enjoying it – makes me very, very proud. I am also hopeful that it will help get the message out there to even more dads that there is a no nonsense,straighforward guide to all the practical skills you’ll need to be a great dad.

 

I hope Prince William knows that all of us Commando Dads are ready to give him back up support when he needs it – before or after the Royal deployment – he just needs to log on to the Commando Dad forum.

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Eating horse meat? Why the long face? If you really want to know what’s in your food, you need to cook it yourself

The headlines here in the UK are dominated by stories of  horse meat ‘contaminating’ British meat products.  I have no real  problem with eating horse, in fact, now I know it is cheaper and apparently indistinguishable from beef, if anything, I want to eat MORE of it.

I think the real problem here is how little we know about what is in our processed foods. I may not have a problem eating horse, but do I want to eat a horse that was killed six months ago in a country far, far away? No I do not.

It is for that reason that, in general, I eat little or no processed foods. My family eats home cooked dinners most nights (and as my wife and I are both out working, this is mainly thanks to a bumper cooking session on a Sunday) and yet I spend less than almost any one I know for food. How? I think mainly because I try and eat what is in season where I can, buy (and cook) in bulk, eat cheaper ingredients where I can and where I can’t, make the most of the food I do buy. I never, ever,  cut corners on meat and buy all of it from my local butchers.

When I make burgers (which I do often, as the kids love them) I make extra and freeze what’s left. Then it is just as quick for me to cook as it would be if I’d bought frozen burgers. But I know every single ingredient that has gone into it. Have you ever stopped to see how many ingredients are in some processed foods (which is worrying enough, but when you can’t pronounce them, you know you’re really in trouble)?

Any way, I am aware that I am now running the risk of preaching. I’m not. But if I can cook home cooked food, any one can. And home cooked food tastes better, is better for you and your kids and in my experience is also cheaper.

Here’s a tried and tested burger recipe if you don’t have one already:

Burger Recipe  – makes about 10

  • Minced beef (2lbs)
  • 1 tbsp soy sauce
  • 1tsp Worcester sauce
  • a chopped onion if you like it (but chop it finely as it does make your burger fall apart when you’re cooking it)
  • any herbs you particularly like (start with teaspoons of dried herbs if you’re not sure how they will effect the end result, and a tablespoon of chopped fresh)
  • a tablespoon of mustard (if you like it)
  • beaten egg or some ripe avocado (as the purpose is to bind it together)
  • salt and pepper
  1. mix all the non meat ingredients together
  2. Add to the meat and mix it all together. The best way to do this is with your hands, and kids love this bit as it’s so squishy. Do make sure hands are clean before and after.
  3. Make into the size burgers that you would like (avoid making them too thick as it can make them difficult to cook through)
  4. Cling film the plate with the burgers on, put it in the fridge for at least half an hour
  5. If freezing,  I just wrap them individually with cling film. If not,
  6. Cook (I prefer grilling or baking)

 

 

 

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Mission Mumsnet Blogfest – Mission Complete.

Commando Dad Mission Brief:

Mission Details: Mumsnet Blogfest – Millbank Towers, London

Mission Date:     Saturday, 10th November, 2012

Mission Status:  Mission Successfully Completed.

Mission Debrief –

I had an amazing time at the very first Mumsnet Blogfest Event in London last Saturday. Having never been to an event like this before, I was quite apprehensive, but I needn’t have been. Everyone I met, from the Mumsnet Team, to the members of the panel I was part of, to the people I spoke to during the one-to-one sessions, were all fantastic.

I also picked up an ammo box full of ideas from the event. In his Social Media Session, Paul Armstrong from Mindshare provided me with some great tips on how to make Social Media work harder for me, rather than the other way around. I will, however, not be taking one piece of advice from Paul.

I don’t think that my Bombadearest (my lovely wife Tara) would quite approve of this!

I then went straight into my one-to-one sessions, where I had the opportunity to meet some really great mummy bloggers and hopefully offer them some useful advice on their blogs. At the beginning of the session my blackboard (worryingly) didn’t have a lot of names on it but things soon picked up. Many thanks to Katherine, a wonderful member of the Mumsnet team, for playing such a convincing bad cop to my good cop.

Then I dashed down to the Lecture theatre, was man-handled by a sound technician trying to mike me up, and then went straight into the Getting Published Session. One word – BRILLIANT.  I really enjoyed listening to the other panellists, having the opportunity to share some of my own experiences, and answering questions from the audience.

Then it was time for more one-to-one chats in the Blog Clinic, again a great experience. At this point I was starting to get a little hoarse!

 

Finally, I got the chance to get a few pictures of the stunning view from the top of Millbank Towers.

 

Thank you to all of the Mumsnet team for giving me the opportunity to be a part of Blogfest 2012.  You all did an amazing job. And many thanks to all the mummy bloggers who attended the event and made it so special, some of whom have already been in touch on Twitter. Already looking forward to next year!

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Calling UK Dads to Be!! Fancy being in a BBC Documentary?

 

 

 

To celebrate the 50th anniversary of Dads being allowed in the delivery room, BBC three is  making a documentary series which will look at getting Dads involved in the pregnancy and birth of their first child: Dads in the Delivery Room. It is due to be on our screens next spring.

Filming has been going really well, and 10 couples have been filmed so far, but to complete the series, the Beeb need to find two dads-to-be for the final episode. Can you help?

You need to be:

  • awaiting the birth of your first baby trooper
  • keen as mustard to take advice from midwives about how to support your partner  - before, during and after the birth
  • have a partner that would welcome your support and is willing to take part

To find out more information, you can message me here or at neil@commandodad.com. Alternatively, you can contact the team directly:

Good Luck!

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Men’s Fitness

I know it’s not very British to talk about your achievements (and to all non-British people reading this: that really is true) but I am so OVER THE MOON to be featured in this month’s Men’s Fitness magazine that I have reproduced the entire 22 line article here.

It’s all about fitting training around family commitments. As a stay at home dad who has trained for marathons, triathlons and other endurance events, this is something I know a LOT about.

Hooray!

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Why won’t my daughter smile in photos?

My daughter Liberty has a beautiful smile. She smiles and laughs a lot. And yet something strange happens when you point a camera at her and actually ask her to smile.

You get either Exhibit A: The Aardman Character (or “More tea Gromit?”)

Image

Exhibit B: The Hitman  (or “I could smile but I may have to kill you”)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Or Exhibit C: The Bouncer (or “Your Name’s Not Down and You’re Not Coming In”)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Oh, I could go on.

 

Just to prove that she is actually a bobby dazzler, here’s the picture of her before I said ‘smile’. To see what happened when I did utter that word, see Exhibit A above.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Are there any keen photographers out there that can offer me some advice about how to get my little girl to smile at the camera?

 

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Memories of 9/11

Tuesday September 11 started much like any other day. It was my day off work and I walked my pregnant wife Tara 20 blocks to her office. It was a beautiful clear, sunny day. When I got back to our apartment I put the TV on (sound down) and started pottering around.

My wife called me around 9.30. She was very shaken and her first words were ‘don’t panic’. I immediately thought it was something to do with our baby. She asked me if I had the TV on and I replied that I had, and some film about the Twin Towers was on. Then she told me the terrible news – it wasn’t a film. It was real. She was watching it from her office window and saw the second plane go in (although she still thought it may be a bomb as she was watching from further up the island so didn’t see the plane, just the explosion). She told me that her bosses had said that they couldn’t guarantee any one’s safety and so she had been told that she must go to a place she felt safe. She wanted me to come and get her straight away.

I ran all the way. The subways were all running but I didn’t know how long that would last as everyone suspected a terrorist attack.

When I got to her, things had advanced. A plane had hit the Pentagon and news had reached us that there was another plane but we didn’t know where. Rumours spread round her office that it was coming back to New York. She didn’t want to go back to our apartment as it was right by the United Nations, which she thought might be a possible target. So we decided to go to her sister Sam’s apartment which was near her office.

As we walked there, we passed St Vincent’s hospital, the nearest hospital to the Twin Towers. Doctors and nurses were out in the street with gurnies, ready to receive the casualties that never came.

We all sat in Sam’s apartment round a television watching it unfold, Sam, Tara, me and Jennifer: a friend who lived in Brooklyn but who couldn’t get home as they closed all routes on and off Manhattan. After a while we felt  we needed to get out – we all just felt we wanted to be with people.

We went to buy water as we had been told that the water supply to Manhattan may have been contaminated, and then to our local diner. It was absolutely packed, but very subdued. Everyone was just stunned and shocked. It is hard to articulate how unusual that was for New York. Much later when we walked home to our apartment, there wasn’t a single person in the streets. There are always people out on the street in Manhattan  - the ‘city that never sleeps’ – but that night we didn’t see another soul, despite the fact all the commuters had to find places to stay, and some people estimate that figure to be 2 million people. And there wasn’t a single homeless person on the streets either.

The next morning posters had started to appear ‘Have you seen this person?’ with a picture and a name, and contact details. Thousands of them. Everywhere. People still thought then that there were survivors wondering around dazed, or perhaps in hospital with memory loss because of the trauma. We didn’t really know that there had been so few survivors – yet.  Shrines with flowers and candles had sprung up overnight outside the many fire stations that had lost men. The FDNY funerals started very quickly after that. Many went along to pay respects to the brave men who had done their best to rescue people from what they must have known was an impossible situation.

Me, Tara and Sam volunteered to help – together with everyone we knew – the rescue crews that were down at the Twin Towers. But there were too  many volunteers. We went to the Park Avenue Armoury and people where queuing around the block to register as volunteers. Great crowds of people started to gather alongside the West Side Highway to cheer the crews as they went back and forth. Over the following weeks and months the crowds dwindled, but never completely disappeared.

In the following days, people started to arrive from all over America to visit the site, to be in New York and show their support. But they were just as powerless to help – or to change anything – as we ourselves were.

I worked at the UK Mission to the UN at the time, and I was called in the next day. I took the calls from hotels all over New York who had British citizens staying that had not returned. The Mission had to coordinate collecting their belongings and contacting relatives to return them. I am not articulate enough to explain what that felt like.

By then the stories about the victims calling their loved ones on their mobile phones started to filter out too. It seemed at the time like tragedy was being heaped on tragedy. It hung heavy on all of us.

When people ask what it was like to be there, I can only say it was like being in a surreal film. It didn’t seem real – we just couldn’t believe what we were witnessing with our own eyes. It was too terrible. It was too big. I feel emotional writing about it 11 years later. It has taught me an important life lesson though – I never leave my wife or troopers without telling them how much I love them.