Ivor Rowberry served in the Signal Platoon, HQ Company of the 2nd Battalion, South Staffordshire Regiment and flew to Arnhem aboard a Horsa Glider as part of the 1st Airlanding Brigade. He was just 22. Before he left Ivor penned the following letter to his Mother…
Usually when I write a letter it is very much overdue and I must make every effort to get it away quickly. This letter, however is different. It is a letter I hoped you would never receive, as it is just a verification of that terse, black-edged card which you received some time ago, and which caused you so much grief. It is because of that grief that I wrote this letter, and by the time you have finished reading it I hope that it has done some good, and that I have not written in vain.
It is very difficult to write now of future things in the past tense, so I am returning to the present.
Tomorrow we go into action. As yet I do not know exactly what our job will be, but no doubt it will be a dangerous one in which many lives will be lost – mine may be one of those lives.
Well Mum, I am not afraid to die. I like this life, yes for the past two years I have planned and dreamed and mapped out a perfect future for myself. I would have liked that future to materialise, but it is not what God wills, and if by sacrificing all this I leave the world slightly better than I found it I am perfectly willing to make that sacrifice. Don’t get me wrong though, Mum; I am no flag-waving patriot, nor have I ever professed to be. England’s a great little country, the best there is, but I cannot honestly and sincerely say “that it is worth fighting for”. Nor can I fancy myself in the role of a gallant crusader fighting for the liberation of Europe. It would be a nice thought, but I would only be kidding myself. No, Mum, my little world is centred around you, and includes Dad, everyone at home, and my friends at Wolverhampton, that is worth fighting for, and if by doing so it strengthens your security and improves your lot in any way, then it is worth dying for too. Now this is where I come to the point of this letter. As I have already stated, I am not afraid to die, and am perfectly willing to do so, if, by my doing so, you benefit in any way whatsoever. If you do not then my sacrifice is all in vain. Have you benefited, Mum, or have you cried and worried yourself sick? I fear it is the latter. Don’t you see, Mum, that it will do me no good, and that in addition you are undoing all the good work I have tried to do. Grief is hypocritical, useless and unfair, and neither you or me any good. I want no flowers, no epitaph, no tears. All I want is for you to remember me and feel proud of me; then I shall rest in peace, knowing that I have done a good job. Death is nothing final or lasting; if it were there would be no point in living; it is just a stage in everyone’s life. To some it comes early, to others late, but it must come to everyone some time, and surely there is no better way of dying.
Besides, I have probably crammed more enjoyment into my 21 years than some manage to do in 80. My only regret is that I have not done as much for you as I would like to do. I loved you Mum; you were the best mother in the world, and what I failed to do in life I am trying to make up in death, so please don’t let me down, Mum, don’t worry or fret, but smile, be proud and satisfied. I have never had much money, but what little I have is yours. Please don’t be silly or sentimental about it, and don’t try to spend it on me. Spend it on yourself or the kiddies, it will do some good that way. Remember that where I am I am quite O.K. and providing that I know you are not grieving over me I shall be perfectly happy.
Well, Mum, that is all, and I hope I have not written it all in vain.
Goodbye, and thanks for everything.
Your unworthy son,
Ivor’s was one of those lives lost. He was killed in action by the Old Church in Oosterbeek on Friday 22nd September. The following is an account by Donald Marklew, also of the Signal Platoon and comes courtesy of that fine history of the 2/South Staffs, By Land, Sea and Air.
“I lost a few good mates that day; they were in the same Platoon I was in. First there was Ivor Rowberry, he was hit by a mortar grenade in the back, we shared the same gun-pit and I went out to the toilet and when I came back, I saw that he was killed. Together with another Signaller we buried him near the Church, I reported this when I came back from a German POW camp”
Today, Ivor lies at rest with Arnhem-Oosterbeek CWGC Cemetery (Grave ref: 16. A. 20). I once tried to read out his letter by his grave and I’m not ashamed to admit someone had to finish it for me.
Lest we forget.