Our Remembrance Stories: Iain Robert Forsyth
Our ‘Meet the Singers’ series is well underway, and we continue with a story from Iain Robert Forsyth about his father. Iain is pictured above with his lovely daughters, Annabel and Heather, who also sing with us. Here is their family connection with the theme of our show ‘Lest We Forget’. We can’t wait to perform on Sunday 10th November at the Whitley Bay Playhouse in this moving show.
“My father somehow survived the Second World War. However, right up until his death in 1982, aged 83, he would never discuss with me anything that happened during those years of 1939–1945.
As Lieutenant Colonel Robert D Forsyth, he commanded a unit of the Royal Army Medical Corps. He served in North Africa with the 8th Army, commanded by Field Marshall General Montgomery, prior to the Battle of El Alamein. His Field Ambulance unit was attached to the 51st Highland Division. Following the defeat of Hitler’s forces in North Africa, they battled their way through Sicily, and across Europe to France, at the end of the war. As an inquisitive youngster, whenever I asked him about the war he would always say, “you really do not want to know”. Such was the effect of some of the horrific atrocities he witnessed.
As a young doctor he married my mother, a Physiotherapist at the RVI, six months before war broke out. They did not see each other again for five years. My mother told me many years later, that my father had been ‘Mentioned in Dispatches’. This was for his bravery and courage in the face of the enemy. Only then, after asking him again, did he open up a little as to why.
The Silver Goblet…
His RAMC unit, whilst trying to reach a front line to attend casualties, were caught in an ambush. They were captured by a German division and, after a few weeks, during the night my father was approached by one of the guards. He asked if my father would look at one of his feet, as he had an in-growing toenail. Father told him to sit down and remove his boots so he could carry out an investigation. The guard laid down his rifle, together with a silver two handled goblet from which he was drinking, and took off his boots. What happened next my father wouldn’t say, other than he ‘sedated’ the guard. This was a rather kind choice of words I think. He picked up the rifle and the silver goblet, and secured the escape of all his men under the darkness of the desert night.
That silver goblet sits on our sideboard to this day.”
“I am immensely proud of my father, as he was modest, gentle and quite a private man, after the war. This was a very different person, my mother would say, to the handsome young doctor she married. However, he continued his medical profession, becoming the Senior ENT Consultant for Northumberland. He devoted much of his spare time to the British Red Cross, becoming Director of the Northumberland Branch.”