the last visible dog (intertext) wrote,
the last visible dog

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The second world war is very real to me. My parents were both around 16 or 17 years old when it started, and I grew up hearing stories about it. How it was a blazingly beautiful day on the day that war was declared, and how neither of them would ever forget clustering around the radio to hear the announcement, and how the announcement was almost immediately followed by air raid sirens. My father was living in Teddington, one of London's suburbs, and my mum and grandmother were in a small village in Essex. My father was too young to join up, but was in the Home Guard, which was not quite as silly as it sounds when you talk about old men and boys wearing tin hats and carrying buckets of sand to help put out fires from incendiary bombs. My mum wanted to join up, but ended up working with the children evacuated from London. My dad became a wireless operator and remembered his Morse Code all the rest of his life.

My grandfathers fought in World War I. I have letters from my mum's dad to my granny from the front. They don't say much, because they couldn't, but help fill in a picture of a young man desperate to keep a stiff upper lip and present a brave face to his young, rather silly, wife. They hadn't been married long, and I think Granny was already pregnant with my Aunt Joan when he went away. I never met my mother's father; he died of a heart attack when my mum was sixteen, just before WW2 broke out.

My mum used to tell me about Armistice Days when she was a child. She said they were always terribly sad and solemn. The whole village where she grew up was affected - so many young men who didn't come home, or who came back, like my grandfather, shattered and changed. My grandfather was very quiet and reclusive, and couldn't bear loud noises; we realize now that he must have been shell-shocked. One of his letters has a poem about wearing poppies - it sounds as if there was some controversy about it, and I'd love to know more.

They are all dead now, except my Aunt Joan, but she is enclosed in the mind-prison of dementia. "Lest we forget" is very real, now, too. There can't be many WW2 veterans left, and I know there are only two, possibly only one, WW1 vets left in Canada. What shall we do when all those minds fall silent? All those witnesses to history, gone? It is up to us to keep their memories alive.

Lest We Forget.
Tags: armistice day, memories, nablopomo, remembrance day

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