Arthur and George were twins. They were called up to fight in 1939, aged just 19. They trained together and, for the most part, fought together in Italy and North Africa.
Arthur was my late stepfather. He passed away in December, 2009, aged 89. His war experiences never left him and, in his final months, the most poignant episodes were recalled again and again. He had been left puzzles to solve in his own mind, puzzles that had no clear answers.
We know about the special relationship that can exist between twins. Two of our own grandchildren share such a bond. And there's a particular wartime story about Arthur and George that I'll always remember. They had been involved in heavy fighting, at close quarters. As the odds turned against them, the order was given to fall back. Enemy fire rained down, and Arthur threw himself into a hole in the ground. He stayed there, waist-deep in water. Any attempt to haul himself out and make it back to his unit, would have attracted unwanted attention from the other side. In fact, the Germans were so close, just beyond a low ridge, that Arthur could hear them talking and slapping their sides in the cold early mornings.
Who else, other than George, would have crawled on his belly to get cold rations and water to his isolated brother? Time after time, he did so, under cover of darkness.
Everyone has stayed too long in the bath at some time. The crinkly skin is the tell-tale sign. Imagine how we'd look after several days too long in the water. Arthur was hospitalised after his eventual rescue.
As kids, we gently ribbed him about how smooth his legs were. We had no idea then and, in truth, we still have no idea today.