Tuesday, 12 November 2013

The Day After Remembrance

I can remember sitting on my Grandfather's knee, fascinated by the different anatomy he had on his right arm. The missing fingers, the muscles that weren't there. Souvenirs of Passchendaele.

The story he told about taking shots from a very long distance to knock out the Berlin-Istanbul telegraph line, miles behind the lines at Gallipoli.  Every morning, at first light, a group of snipers would be tasked with infiltrating behind the Turkish lines, to take out the milk-bottle sized insulators from about a mile - as close as they could get. It took many shots, but they'd do it. And that night, the Turks would replace them again.

Then there was the Somme, after the evacuation... he didn't talk much about that.

And the time in 1917, when as a sniper out in no-man's land, a group of red-painted German fighters used him for target practice. I had an Airfix model of an Albatros D.V, and he recognised that as the general type. I've looked it up, and yes, Baron Manfred Von Richthofen's "Flying Circus" had rotated into that area at that time. He was only 19.

My father told me other stories, from the war after the War to end all wars. Recovering survivors from the 1-ton "land mines" the Luftwaffe dropped on Liverpool, which would level whole rows of  houses. How later on, when he was working on a "Black" Project in SE England, you were safe if you heard the buzz of the "Doodlebug" V-1 cruise missiles. But if one passed overhead, started going away, and then cut out, you took cover. Because they'd dive back onto the place they'd just passed over. He was only 19 too.

I have no such stories to tell my son, and I am so, so grateful to all those who fought, and died, to make sure I don't.

OK, I caught a spent LMG bullet in my leg once, and have been under 122mm rocket fire, and there's some other stuff I can't talk about, but the Cold War was not in the same league, for me.

At 19, I wasn't watching the skies for Zeppelins, or Gothas, or Heinkels, or Junkers. Or Illyushins or Tupolevs, trying to drop bombs on those I love.

That lack of fear was their legacy to us, and to our children. Lest We Forget.


Billie said...

Well said. Thank you.

Anonymous said...

Lovely and beautifully written.


Calie said...

Nice post, Zoe.

Calie xx