The occasion was a meeting of the local Probus club, which is a monthly gathering of about thirty gentlemen of retiral age. They meet to discuss an eclectic range of subjects, but much of the material is about the history of the town, the Borders, and its environs. I met lots of people I knew and saw lots of faces I should have been able to put names to.
I was there to talk about books and Romans, but I strayed a bit - as you do - and was telling a few tales about growing up in the early sixties and the adventures we used to have. I suddenly remembered an occasion when I was about 10 and my friend, Brian Pringle, and I, were paddling in the Jed at the bottom of Canongate, not far from the Royal Hotel where the meeting took place.
We were probably guddling for trout, as you did, but when I was rooting around in the stones I found something much more interesting. The object in question was a rather rusty, but perfectly recognisable (I was interested in war stuff) Luger automatic pistol, with an Afrika Korps palm tree and swastika symbol on the chequered butt. For a ten-year-old whose idea of heaven was the Victor comic (surely you remember Matt Braddock VC?) dropping through the letter box, it was the find of a lifetime (I looked for a similar gun on the internet and it must have been awfully rare). To keep or not to keep? Oh, the temptation. Thankfully common sense prevailed and we took it to the police station, and it was never seen again.
|Who knows, Rommel might have|
carried one just like it
But the find aroused lots of questions. How had it got there? Who had it belonged to? How did they get it. The answers were: probably some Jethart lad who served in the Eighth Army and either took it off an officer prisoner or a body, brought it home, eventually realised it was a bit dangerous to have and chucked it where he thought it would never be found.
Anyway, I regaled them with the tale, and then went on to the other things I was there to talk about, had a great Q & A session and was just wrapping up when one of the gents at the far end, Alan 'Potty' Porterfield, piped up. 'This isn't a question', he says, 'but an answer to something you brought up earlier. Back in the day, I was the only laddie in Jethart who played British and Jerries with a genuine Luger. It belonged to my uncle Wattie Turnbull who brought it back from the war. When I was a bit older I asked him what he'd done with it. "I chucked it in the Jed" he says. So now I know what happened to the Luger and you know where it came from.'
And there you have it. A mystery that goes back to the battle of El Alamein - fought from the 23 October to 4 November, 1942 - and the Desert Rats, then links the fifties and the sixties, is finally solved seventy years later. Spooky, eh?