I always think of Pop Elphick during this week. Remembrance Sunday and Armistice Day I mean.

Pop, a name that stuck when we were young, was my granddad.

I suspect he wouldn’t have been bothered by either day nor would he have gone in for this modern-day sport of lambasting anyone daring not to wear a poppy in their lapel.

But that doesn’t mean I don’t spare a thought for him at this time of year even though he died a painful death of bowel cancer at the age of 55 back when I was eight.

I have flashes of images of him. Handsome with a jet black dark quiff, a wiry-framed prankster who taught me how to fish.

A landscape gardener with his head in the clouds, he spent all his spare time in the countryside filling our heads with tall tales of Kentish legends.

Oh and he was a war hero. Except nobody knew.

He was one of those people who simply didn’t speak about the war.

Years ago in our attic my parents unearthed Pop’s war medals. There, in the middle of campaign awards, dulled by neglect with its ribbons frayed was the Croix de Guerre, one of the highest military medals the French can bestow.

The Victoria Cross might be our equivalent.

I was amazed. Even more so by my parents’ lack of knowledge about why it had been awarded.

Their lack of curiosity was waved away by the fact that Pop had steadfastly refused to answer their questions in the same way they were unable to answer mine.

I, like them, forgot about it until a couple of years ago when on a rainy Sunday afternoon I decided this family ignorance could continue no longer. I fired up my laptop.

I stumble across the online archives of the London Gazette for November 1944.

There in a long long list is Sergeant (Temporary) Stanley Llewellyn Elphick, Royal Marine, Mentioned in Dispatches. This is Pop.

In the weeks that follow I’m seized by a questioning zeal to find out more.

After the Gazette it’s hard going. Pop was just a grunt not a general, so he’s pretty deep down in the archives. In addition the French records on the Croix de Guerre are disgracefully incomplete. They do not answer queries either.

But I have breakthroughs. I know he was a Royal Marine and even played trumpet in the RM band.

A few days later I get another insight from an obscure historical website.

Pop was Mentioned in Despatches and, I believe, awarded the Croix de Guerre for his part in the June 1944 capture of the island of Elba, one of the last German strongholds in the Mediterranean.

It was the place of Napoleon’s first exile. The assault was led by the Free French Forces but supported by the Americans and British.

Pop was in LCG14.

That’s Landing Craft Gun number 14, a specially adapted vessel to get troops on the shallow sloping beaches of Elba while firing some heavy duty weaponry as cover.

The Allies finally took Elba but the brutal two-day battle cost 500 German lives, 252 French and 38 British.

And here’s the tantalising part. Seems my Pop may have got his medal for dashing on to the beach to rescue stricken comrades while under heavy German fire.

In truth, the sort of everyday bravery that everyday men like him were expected to perform in the extraordinary circumstances of the time. But a lump comes into my front when I find that snippet.

So, I’m on a mission of my own which I suspect Pop would not have welcomed.

I’m going to find out exactly what he did and restore the story to our family history. He lives on as a wonderful grandfather, but that hell on Elba, when a modest, flower-loving dreamer became a hero, must have its chapter too.

The Argus: Bob Monkhouse

A pub conversation the other day centred on favourite jokes. Mine has always been the following: When I die I want to go peacefully in my sleep like my grandfather did, not screaming like the passengers on his bus.

Gets me every time. I love the juxtaposition. I’ve always insisted that it was written by Bob Monkhouse but other drinkers gave it to Gagmeister General Barry Cryer. Online, American comic Jack Handey is credited as is US vaudeville act Will Rogers.

Can anyone help identify the genius behind it?