I remember a great uncle and an uncle of mine, both with the same name, who died in the First and Second World wars respectively. They joined up because they wanted to fight for freedom, but sadly did not survive long enough to see action.
I remember my grandmother’s desperate sadness and the large silver-framed portrait of the handsome young man in the RAF uniform, ever present on her dressing table for the thirty-eight years between her third son’s death and her own.
I remember my mother telling me about a generation of young men, her friends she had known since teenage years, who left one day in 1940 to join the army, laughing as they waved goodbye at the station, yet disappeared out of her life forever, and about whom until the end of her life she could not speak without weeping.
I will never forget all the BBC’s reports from Wootton Bassett in Wiltshire, a town not far from where I live, where for many years the RAF repatriated the British soldiers killed in action and where every single time the populace would spontaneously line the roads to pay their last respects as the soldiers who had perished were driven by, and which would reduce me to tears every time. Although the location for this repatriation has now been changed, the Royal Family have recognised the loyalty of the town and re-named it Royal Wootton Bassett.
I will never forget that it is thanks to them and people like them that we continue to live in a free world, and I will always be grateful.
Photo Finish -
from Lonicera's non-digital archive