“They went with songs to the battle, they were young.
Straight of limb, true of eye, steady and aglow.
They were staunch to the end against odds uncounted,
They fell with their faces to the foe.They shall not grow old, as we that are left grow old. Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn. At the going down of the sun and in the morning, we will remember them.” ~ Robert Laurence Binyon
Today being Remembrance Day, I’m again thinking of family members who served, and especially of those who gave their lives during the 2nd Word War, and how it affected our family in particular. I shared some of these memories and photos a couple of years ago on my old blog, but today the feelings of loss once again well up in my mind.
When I was growing up in England, we often visited my Great Aunt Sue and Uncle Harold, and my eyes were always drawn to the photo of a handsome young man in army uniform, which stood on their piano. Alfie was one of the many young casualties of the second world war. The piano had been his, and was never opened again after his death. Here he is in happier times, with his mom and dad, who never stopped grieving for their only child.
My mom often spoke with pride of her older brother Fred. He was her hero, a great swimmer and competition diver, diving from the top of cranes in Hong Kong Harbour. The two of them were very close and had lots of fun together.
Fred went down on an unmarked Japanese POW ship, the Lisbon Maru, which was torpedoed by the allies in October 1942. A Military Medal is little compensation for the loss of a beloved son and brother. His name is at the bottom of the first column on this segment of the Roll of Honour.
I know I would have loved to have had him as my uncle. Maybe he would have taught me to play the bugle, as well as how to swim, which is something I still haven’t mastered.
This pretty birthday card was the last correspondence mom received from him, and it’s now one of my most treasured possessions.
Mom’s Uncle Bob is another relative I would have loved to have known. He would have been my great uncle, if only he hadn’t also died in the war.
My dad’s dreams of studying to be an engineer were shattered by the outbreak of war, and he was in his late teens when left his home and family in the Dutch East Indies, now known as Indonesia, to join the Royal Dutch Navy on the submarines.
At the end of the war, he fell in love with my mom in England and they married. Because he spoke very little English, he was forced to settle for a very mediocre job as an electrician in a coal mine. Times were very hard, and any job was better than nothing, especially with a young family to support.
My dad survived the war physically unscathed, but he never saw his mom and dad again, and my sister and I didn’t ever meet our grandparents. My grandfather died at the hands of the Japanese, and my grandmother passed away when we were very young.
These faded B&W photographs fill my heart with sadness, thinking of how war can change the course of people’s lives for ever, and usually not for the better. These words spoken by General Robert E. Lee, are so true: “What a cruel thing is war: to separate and destroy families and friends, and mar the purest joys and happiness God has granted us in this world; to fill our hearts with hatred instead of love for our neighbors, and to devastate the fair face of this beautiful world.”