‘Dad’s poem to wee Maggie’

My great grandfather Sergeant Robert “Bobby” Marr Smith was an Army chef in WWII, between 1940-1945. He began his journey training for the Army in 1940’s Glasgow. It was during this time he received news that he had become a father. Granted only 48hrs leave, he travelled home to Dunbar to visit his new born daughter, Margret Gulan Smith, before departing for a 5-year deployment overseas. In 1940 he was first posted to South Africa and the following 5 years took him to Egypt, Iraq, Palestine, Greece, Malta and Italy.
While he did not speak much about the war, he did leave us a few treasured stories. He fondly recounted once cooking 100 fried eggs on top of a boiling hot metal tank for his platoon. In 1945 his platoon, along with many others, were given orders to march from Reggio De Callibria in the South of Italy to Rome in the North. This gruelling 500mile journey was no match for this Scotsman. He even found a companion – a wee dog who travelled most of the way but disappeared when they met up with the Polish army. Bobby sadly lost his brother Alexander in the sinking of HMS Repulse in 1941. He also lost his brother-in-law and his cousin ‘Cockles’, also lost at sea.
My great-grandfather, a man of a few words, did however have much to say about how he missed his new-born daughter, who wasn’t so young anymore. ‘Dad’s Poem to Wee Maggie’ sent from Egypt on the 7th of September 1942 captures his love and feelings at the time, and represents one of the many sacrifices he, and so many others, had to make during the war. Missing five years of Margaret’s life, he tried his best to keep in contact posting postcards, letters and even one parcel – the contents of which got lost in translation. After asking a fellow soldier to purchase a gift in Cairo for a baby girl, by the time it arrived in Dunbar the mistake was discovered and in fact the gift was for a boy. The baby clothes were never worn until 1998 when my cousin Hamish, Bobby’s great-grandson, was given the privilege.
Throughout the difficult war, my great grandad remained an individual who brought positivity, joy and laughter. I wish to embody his character and values in my role as a Naval Officer by instilling morale in those I lead, and in my civilian career as a nurse where helping others is at the centre of what I do.
Reflecting on my great-grandad’s journey and how much he sacrificed by missing the beginning of his daughter’s life has led me to consider the current sacrifices being made. All over the world right now, people are unable to be beside the ones they love most in times of joy and heartache. And so, we should take from this, to cherish and never forget those who we love most.

Submitted by Midshipman Given

Photo: Sergeant Robert ‘Bobby’ Marr Smith

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