Loveable motorbike ace and walking mutton-chop Guy Martin took some time out of being a badass to delve into his family history for a new TV show, and found out some pretty dark stuff about his Grandad’s life.
A full-time lorry mechanic from Lincolnshire, Martin takes time out of his day job to compete in races like the Isle of Man TT, and present a number of gearhead shows. In a new Channel 4 show – Our Guy In Latvia – airing on Monday, Martin discovers that his Grandad actually fought for the Nazis during World War II.
Martin travelled to the Baltic State to delve into his family history, where he found his Grandad Walter Kidals – original first name Waldemars – was conscripted into the army when the Nazis rolled through Latvia in 1941.
He spent two years in a British prisoner of war camp in Belgium, before eventually arriving in Hull as a refugee in 1947. Martin admits that nobody in his family had a clue about Walter’s past, with his main memory being of a man who didn’t talk much and spent a lot of time in his garden shed.
His English wasn’t the best. He could get his point across. He was just different, just the way he ate and the way he drank his tea. He’d mix anything with anything.
When the Nazi war-machine bulldozed its way through Europe, men in occupied countries were really only given two choices: join the army or face death.
Joining the feared Latvian Legion, Walter fought against the Russians in Europe where he watched his best friend get killed by a sniper, and his fellow soldiers crucified on the side of a road.
Guy spoke about his Grandad after hearing his harrowing story:
A few people have said my granddad looks like me but I reckon he’s far better looking. I still miss him.
I always looked up to him but I admire him even more now. His eyes have seen more than I’ll see. If I had my time again, sitting in his shed, knowing what I know now, I’d try to talk to him about what he went through.
To think of what soldiers like Walter Kidals went through is tough, and knowing he was forced to fight for one of the most ruthless and feared armies the world has ever seen leaves nothing but respect for those conscripted.