Never See His Kind Again

My father, Sefton Sandford, died last November 11, which somehow appropriately was Veterans Day.  He was 87.  Any child’s judgment is apt to be subjective on these occasions, but I remain stubbornly of the opinion that he was a great man, and certainly one who answered Wordsworth’s question, “Who is the happy warrior?  Who is he / That every man in arms should wish to be?”  Having joined the Royal Navy as a 13-year-old cadet with no great advantage in life, he left it 40 years later as a much-decorated admiral.  To review his career as a whole is to enter a world it is difficult nowadays to imagine.  It is a world where patriotism, selfless dedication to a cause, devotion to duty, and service to one’s fellows had not been tainted by irony or satire.  These were the basic qualities my father embodied, and which he lived long enough to see fall out of fashion.  As it happens, I share in some small measure the consensus view that Britain was at one time all too deferential a society.  The country where I was a schoolboy 50 years ago may have been more secure and self-confident than it is now, but it was also a land of surly shopkeepers and grubby trains, and ill-kept little towns of the kind in which I grew up, whose names were synonyms for dullness and decorum—Guildford, Basingstoke, Worthing, Tunbridge Wells, Bedford, Portsmouth,...

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