This is my grandfather, Harry Chapman. He was actually my step grandfather, but I never ever thought of him that way. He was the only grandfather I ever knew. Movie star good looks and limitless charm, he was a true wit and a genius and patriot. He served in the Royal Artillery during WWII in Northern Europe. After the war, he became a salesman for Bakers and Larners of Holt.
My German grandmother found herself a former POW in England. With no home to go back to, she remained. She had a number of offers of marriage, including a titled lord. However, this working class man stole her heart. They were married for over forty years.
Together, my grandparents boarded other people’s dogs and established their own Petergard Bulldogs line. They became friends with royalty and many other celebrities.
When my mother escaped from Eastern Europe, Harry Chapman gladly took her into their home. He was the guardian of two German women in a country still bitter from the war for decades.
Along with his charm, he spoke the Queen’s English with perfect pronunciation, and was therefore on every local council in the area. (The Norfolk accent can be hard to understand.)
When I came along, we became the best of friends. He took me everywhere, and we lhad great fun. We laughed at all of the funniest British tv shows and went to the seaside for the live shows. At the Royal Norfolk Show each year, he introduced me to his beloved Royal Horse Artillery. We would see the men riding in on their horses, and set up the great guns; soon the stadium would re-vibrate with the sound of artillery. If anyone in the world influenced me to love the army, it was “Opa.”
When he visited us, he was charming the young ladies of my high school and college.
When I went of to Basic Training, he was the one person I truly wished to see on graduation day. However, cancer took his life just a couple of weeks before I went. Sights and sounds of England flooded my mind the entire time I was at Fort Knox, and I hope that it was Opa guiding me along. In the war, I spent as much time as I could with the British troops for him.
Harry never got to meet my beautiful girls, and i wish that they had known the warmth of his laughter and his love. I miss him and my grandmother every moment. Rest in peace, Opa. I love you.