Today is Armistice Day.
From For the Fallen by Lawrence Binyon
They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years contemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.
Today I’ve been thinking of my father, who was in the Green Howards Regiment and he took part in the D-Day landings on 6 June 1944. He was discharged from the Army in December 1944 as his Army Service Book records for “ceasing to fulfil Army physical requirements”. He didn’t talk about it to me at all . My mother told me that he suffered from shell shock and was in hospital immediately after D-Day for quite a while. She moved to Lancaster to be near him in the hospital. During the war she had worked in a factory where they made parachutes. The effects of shell shock lingered quite a while, as my mother told me he was very depressed. He did recover and I never would have thought my dad was ever depressed – when I knew him he was always cheerful and never seemed to worry about anything. Both my parents are dead now and I wish now that I had asked them more about their lives.
This makes me think I should know more about the war. There are many books and we have just a few. The Second World War: a narrative history by John Ray covers the campaigns and theatres of war. I have started to read this but am only a short way into it. Then there is the Band of Brothers by Stephen Ambrose about the Easy Company, 101st Airborne Division, of the US Army, covering the period from 1942 to D-Day and victory. We watched the televised series of this and have it on DVD, definitely one to revisit.
For fiction there are Melvyn Bragg’s books The Soldier’s Return, A Son of War, and Crossing the Lines, although covering the period from 1946 up to the 1950s are wonderful books and look back at the war period as well as showing what life was like in the aftermath of the second world war. Another book set in the period just after the war is One Fine Day by Mollie Panter-Downes (which I wrote about here). I’ve also recently read Eliza Graham’s Playing with the Moon, a novel about the legacy of war, looking back over 60 years from the present day to the time when the Americans were training on the Dorset coast in preparation from D-Day and local people were evacuated from their homes. I’ll write more about this book in another post. BBC’s Countryfile this morning also covered these events in its film about Exercise Tiger on Slapton Sands when US landing crafts for D-Day were intercepted by German U-boats and two were sunk. The 1940s and 1950s are years that I really want to look at in more detail.