November 13, 2013

Pink Floyd frontman honors veteran with a poem

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Roger Waters family, months before his father was killed in WWII

“My father, distant now but live and warm and strong / In uniform tobacco haze.”

Pink Floyd frontman Roger Waters has never shied away from writing about the pain of losing his father when he was a baby. Pink, the rock star character in The Wall said to be based on Waters, is tormented by the loss of his father. Lieutenant Eric Fletcher Waters died fighting in WWII when his son was five months old.

Daddy’s flown across the ocean
Leaving just a memory
Snapshot in the family album
Daddy what else did you leave for me?
Daddy, what’d’ja leave behind for me?!?
All in all it was just a brick in the wall.
All in all it was all just bricks in the wall.

Waters has been quoted as saying that, because remains were never found, he never stopped expecting his father to come home, “‘I was very angry,’ Waters has said about never knowing his father. ‘Because he was missing in action, presumed killed, until quite recently I expected him to come home.'” According to the Daily Mail:

Eric Waters’ death provided the inspiration for several songs and it is commemorated in particular with When The Tigers Broke Free, which also appeared in the film The Wall.

In the song, Waters describes how he feels that his 31-year-old father died because of foolhardy generals.

The last verse has the lyrics ‘It was dark all around. There was frost in the ground When the tigers broke free. And no one survived  From the Royal Fusiliers Company Z. They were all left behind, Most of them dead.

‘The rest of them dying. And that’s how the High Command Took my daddy from me.’

Harry Shindler, a 95 year old British veteran who served in the same part of Italy as Waters’ father, has spent years investigating cases of lost soldiers, and recently discovered documents that solved the mystery of where Lt. Waters was killed. According to The Guardian:

Shindler had never heard of Pink Floyd, but knew of Waters and decided to help him when the singer this year visited the Commonwealth war graves cemetery at Monte Cassino, where his father’s name is listed….’I read about how he didn’t know his dad and I felt great affection for him,’ said Shindler, who also landed at Anzio and is the head of a veterans’ association.”

Schindler tracked down a report of fighting after the Anzio landing at the National Archives in Kew, which revealed Waters was killed in a ditch at 11.30am on 18 February 1944, after his company was surrounded during “stiff fighting”. His body has never been found…More importantly, Shindler found a map reference, which he matched with a then rural spot that is now at the centre of the town of Aprilia.

Waters is expected to visit Italy in February, the 70th anniversary of his fathers death, and he sent Schindler a poem, written in 2002 and published today in Italy’s La Repubblica newspaper, entitled One River. Waters signed Shindler’s copy “To Harry, with gratitude.”

When the wind scythes through the crop and good men fall
And children soft in mothers arms cringe, unbelieving, from the desperados casual blade
My father, distant now but live and warm and strong, in uniform tobacco haze, speaks out.
‘My son’, he says, ‘Stay not the passion of your loss, But rather keen and hone its edge
That you may never turn away, numb, brute, from bets too difficult to hedge…

 

Julia Fleischaker is a former director of marketing and publicity at Melville House.

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