There are houses that I drive past day in and day out,which suddenly become memories of this job, or that person.
Every now and then though, someone makes a real impression. Someone who I know I won’t forget and will forever be the basis of
“See that house over there? Well I once had a job there where……..”
Today was one of those days, and in this instance I have direct permission to share his details and his story (in fact, he asked for the web address so that he could look in when he gets back from hospital)
I would like you all to meet Mr Charles Eagles; or rather I should say Sergeant Charles Eagles of the Durham Light Infantry.
The medical reason for me crossing paths with Sergeant Eagles is really not important, other than to say it was nothing life threatening but did require admission to hospital.
On this shift I was working with Phil, and for this job, Phil was attending and I was driving.
As we pulled up outside this house, we both noticed something that you never see in this country, something that I think should be seen and displayed proudly around the country, that of a Union Flag flying at the top of a flag pole in the front garden of this house.
As we walked around the back of the substantial home, we noticed a myriad of objects in the back garden including old fashioned British red phone boxes, huge stone Great Dane dogs and other things you wouldn’t normally see in or around someone’s home.
We were welcomed inside by Charles wife, who asked us if we could speak some sense to him as he was too busy walking around when he should have been resting.
“Come on Sir; let’s get you into the front room so that we can check you over”
As we walked into the front room, my eyes were darting all over the place. Another benefit of being in this job is getting to have a quick insight (or let’s be honest – a bit nosey) into other people’s lives.
Sometimes all you want to do is to get out of someone’s house as quickly as possible as you fear for your health during the time that you are in there, other times, you want time to slow down so you can take things in and just be part of that household for even just a short while. This was definitely one of those times!
As Phil was doing his assessment, I was chatting on to Charles and his wife. Early on in the conversation Charles mentioned that he took part in the D-Day landings in France, then started telling us a quick story about something that was obviously hugely important in his life – that of the ‘Battle of Lingevres’.
He quickly mentioned certain facts about it, almost rushing as if to share his tale with as many people as possible. He told us something about how over 200 of his men had died along with 20(ish) of the officers within a couple of hours of the battle starting. He then told us that in the records of the D-Day landings, this was only classed as a minor skirmish!!
Unfortunately, we didn’t get to talk for that much longer as we had to get him off to hospital, however, both Phil and I could have happily sat in his presence for the entire afternoon. Once we had him on the back of the ambulance, I joked that I was going to pull rank with Phil and take over looking after the patient, as I wanted to continue hearing his stories on the way to hospital. Phil just looked over at me and said
“No chance mate!”
Once we arrived at hospital, I did something that I have only ever done once before, ask him for his permission for me to write about him. I didn’t think he would know what a blog was as he was 85years old and I assumed not that computer literate. How wrong could I be…?
“Of course you can Mark, but just Google Charles Eagles and you will find me on there”
“What, you have your own blog??”
“No, but I have wrote my story for the BBC Website, and I am writing my book too”
I told him what my blog was about and asked him if I could use his real name, to which he replied
“Of course you can, in fact why don’t you both come to the house one day? If you think what is in there is special, wait until you see some of the stuff I have in storage. I have a museum worth of things from the war, and all the stories to go with them too.”
You know what though? I really, really I gave him one of my business cards with the blog address on, and told him to give it a couple of days then click on the site and let me know what he thought of what I had wrote. If you are reading this Sir, I hope you approve.
As I left his room, I reached over and shook his hand.
“It has been and honour and a pleasure to meet you. Thank you for everything you did”
And off we went. Phil and I both sat in the cab of the ambulance outside of the hospital, marveling at the person that we had just met. As Phil drove us back to station, I did what he said, and googled him, which brought me to a web site for Second World War veterans to share their stories and low and behold, there was one by Charles.
Phil spent the next 15 minutes listening intently, whilst I read Charles story out loud.
Oh my god, what a story! If you do nothing else tonight, please click on this link to read what he went through at the Battle of Lingevres. It is horrifying, shocking, funny, and inspiring and I really do feel privileged to have met such a man (and just think, he was only 19 at the time!!).
And then once I got home and started writing this post, I also found this story in a local paper about him. Just amazing!
What a day!!
Sergeant Charles Eagles, I salute you Sir, and I will come round one day in the not too distant future so I can get the rest of the story from you.