Eclectic Blue

I remember

Comments Off on I remember 10 November 2017

I remember

Why do I feel so strongly about Remembrance Day, the poppy, the Royal British Legion and everything about this time of year? It is not as if my family is steeped in military history. So far as I can tell, the only member of my family to be actively involved was my dad, the great Anthony Johansen, when he lied about his age in World War Two, convincing the authorities he was older than 15, in order to join the North Atlantic convoys on board the Liberty Ships. My mum and her family lost everything in the destruction of Rotterdam, including several homes. They witnessed at first hand the death of soldiers and civilians. They told me little about it.

My mum did tell me about the brave Dutch marines who fought and died against a vastly larger and better equipped army. My grandfather, who was a kind of ARP Hodges from Dad’s Army, walking the streets of Bristol as the bombs were about to fall and, on occasions when they actually started to fall, ensuring all the lights were out. He certainly lost friends. He never told me who they were. I didn’t want to ask. My Uncle Koos from Rotterdam, with whom I was never really close, was actually a World War One historian. Given my time again, I would have made more of an effort to speak to him. Too late now.

In recent times, I have been privileged to work closely with the Royal British Legion and have a gained a greater understand of what they do. I have met heroes and heroines, I have met the widows of those who gave everything. Some are lonely, some are damaged physically and psychologically, and, I can honestly say, every single one was a hero. In times past, I may have been less respectful about what represents a hero. I know now. The very act of serving counts as heroism to me. The moment one signs up, the reality is writ large.

I have also met the injured and maimed from recent conflicts. At least they were not conscripts but they were there because they wanted to serve. Whether we agreed with the nature of those conflicts is by the by. The armed services do not choose their conflicts: politicians do.

Our lives today and the relative freedoms we now enjoy are as a result of what came before. Those who paid the ultimate price deserve our eternal respect. And that’s why we remember them.

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