30 August 2016

G.I. Limey - A Welsh American's Second World War

GI Limey is a rags to riches tale of triumph over adversary, a real-life Boy’s Own adventure, laced with friendships forged in the heat of battle that only a soldier can truly understand. It in no way glorifies war with its shockingly honest description of combat, at times brutal to read, you are left in no doubt how death and destruction can haunt a soldier for the rest of their life.
Born in 1923 Clifford Guard’s childhood, in the south Wales town of Swansea, was filled with struggle, hardship and heartbreak as the Great Depression began to bite. He sees death from the beginning, as his infant sister dies in the workhouse having contracted diphtheria, before his younger disabled brother is taken into care and his parents divorce. On leaving school at 14, barely able to read or write, he seeks a way out of the squalor through running away to sea.
His eyes are opened to the world as he visits far off places in Canada, Africa, South America and Australia. When war breaks out he participates in the perilous Atlantic convoys before leaving his ship in New York, on hearing of the blitzing of his home town, to take the shortest route closer to the action through joining the American Army. In basic training Limey, as Clifford becomes known to one and all, meets Henry ‘The Greek’ Kallas and Ralph ‘Trixie’ Trinkley; together they become a band of brothers watching each other’s back and sharing lighter moments through the course of the war together.
After landing on Omaha beach, following D Day, they spend the next eleven months at the forefront of some of most fearsome fighting of the war as the German Army is beaten back across northern Europe and into its Homeland. Gripping first hand accounts of disabling tanks, house to house fighting, civilian suicide, facing fire from fanatical Hitler Youths, every aspect of the death, destruction and slaughter of war is recalled, not least the shock of liberating a death camp and uncovering appalling crimes against humanity.
Following the joy of the German surrender, celebrated alongside Russian women tank drivers on the banks of the Elbe River, Limey shows his humanity by helping feed the starving villages while serving in the Army of Occupation.
Following his release he settles in the United States and chases the American Dream but is to be forever haunted by all the killing he had both witnessed and carried out. Determined to turn things around he goes back to school and becomes a psychologist in order to better understand what we now recognise as post-traumatic stress disorder.
Having raised a family and enjoyed a successful career he retires back to his Swansea home. Last summer that one-time snotty-nosed kid, with a sock hanging out a hole in his shoe, was summoned to meet the Queen in Buckingham Palace to talk about his exploits.
Despite being 90-years-old Limey, who still has nightmares about the war, has one final mission… to share his story with the world in order to help ensure today’s servicemen and women are better supported following combat.
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