Thursday, 16 August 2018

Visions of that better world........ reflecting on what I owe to my parents and grandparents

Uncle George and friends, 1918
I am part of that generation which was born directly after the Second World War and is now coming to retirement which gives you a degree of perspective.

For my children both those world wars are just history as remote in a way as the Charge of the Light Brigade, the Battle of Waterloo or the death of Nelson at Trafalgar.

Now there is nothing odd about that.  The eldest was born in 1984 and the youngest in ‘92 by which time the young men and women who had endured the Blitz, fought their way across Europe and the Far East were themselves preparing to receive their State pensions.

But for me those conflicts were still real events.

Nor could it be otherwise.

The tenth anniversary of the end of the last world war coincided with my sixth birthday and the reminders of that conflict were still very visible from bomb sites to surplus military equipment which could be bought for next to nothing.

Mother and friend, 1941, Lincolnshire
And that earlier world war was still all round us.

The war memorials and the Cenotaph were little more than 30 years old when I celebrated that sixth birthday and those that had fought in the Great War were still relatively young men and women.

Many were yet to be grandparents, and most were still active and not yet thinking of retirement.

Indeed it is a salutary thought that back then in 1955 many were younger than I am now.

All of which draws me back to my child hood and how my parents and grandparents dealt with those war time experiences.

By and large they didn’t talk about them in fact were reluctant to do so and when pushed made some flippant remark which hid deeper and perhaps darker experiences.

And for that I am grateful.  I grew up in a household of rising
Father with a hospital unit, 1941, North Shields
material expectations set against a period of prosperity not known to my parents or grandparents.

Their lives in the first half of the twentieth century had been pitted against that long period of economic stagnation culminating with the Great Depression which had been sandwiched between those two world war.

Uncle Roger and mother, 1939
But like most parents of the late 40s and 50s they made every effort to make our lives secure, comfortable and above all ones which were lived out with a sense of the progress made and yet to be made.

True there was the shadow of the bomb and some nasty little wars but they were kept at bay.  And I know that all parents through all time have tried to do their best for their children, but for me those generations who went through the two world wars did their bit not only to fight but to win the peace.

And that for me is well worth remembering.

Pictures; from the collection of Andrew Simpson

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