As children born in the late (very late) 60s our exposure to WWI and WWII was from the memories bestowed upon us by the generations before who had been there.
Like countless families, lives and loves were lost.
Life after WWII for my parents’ generation was a time of change but also a time of stiff upper lip, carry on, as you were! I remember saying to my mother that we only heard about the war meanwhile they lived through it and when the menfolk came home they had seen first hand conflict and suffering, whereas in our carefree childhood our grandparents’ generation and how they were was the only way we knew them.
Our paternal grandmother had lived in India (or Indya or Injar) and used to regale us with stories that always started with “When I was in India / Indya / Injar ……”, we would roll our eyes and desperately try to change the subject realising it was futile, besides we probably bored her with our childhood frolics that were so far removed from her own childhood, but we tolerated these tales and I’m glad we did. We’ve been able to repeat these stories and share photos with our children and in turn I hope that they share these with future generations.
Our paternal grandfather died before we were born but Granny kept everything and by everything I really mean it! I still have his metal hat box and trunk (with the tag that says “not needed on passage”) that I use to this day. We used to mess around with gas masks and dress up in uniform, play with lead soldiers and watch war films to give us ideas for our next assault under a fence or throwing grenades (fir cones) over the Ha-Ha. We also had a tree that was called The Plane, I was never allowed to fly it with passengers and cargo, probably too much of a liability but I did fly solo when the boys weren’t around!
Our maternal grandfather, who was in the same regiment as my paternal grandfather and great uncles, never came back as he was missing presumed dead in Burma aged 24. I can’t imagine Granny reading such devastating news in a telegram. No age at all 24.
Granny remarried and Grandpa used to say a lot of things were “because of the war”. At breakfast he would put enough butter and jam on a mouthful sized piece of toast, eat it, then repeat the process until toast, butter and jam were gone. When asked why, he replied that if he had smothered his toast with butter and jam and had then been ‘taken out’ it would be a waste of food if the next person didn’t like butter or jam. Sounds sensible and we accepted it because it was from his “during the war” catalogue of stories! He also used to have hard boiled eggs that were lovingly referred to as bullets and still my preferred choice. He said that if there were hard boiled eggs then they’d never get ruined or go to waste. So true.
Big Welsh’s maternal grandfather had been in Africa and Sunday lunches were always hilarious when either his late sister, the hilarious Aunty Helen, or myself just happened to mention Africa. Off he’d go, starting with “during my days in Africa”, if my ma in law’s looks could kill then we’d only have ever had one Sunday lunch but it became something of a joke and in remembering his days in Africa it kept his mind active!
These are the stories and memories that I hold dear and as we watched the coverage yesterday I remembered with love and pride those who came back with stories to tell and those who never made it back to tell us of how it was.
We will remember them.