12 November 2006

Pesky work!

Well I haven't yet died of the 'lurgy, despite its best efforts but thank you all for your kind thoughts! As there's currently a Met-wide "initiative" against anti-social behaviour I've been pulling nasty long shifts for the past week or so, even at one stage - whisper it children! - arresting people. As a community officer this doesn't happen too often so I've had to lie down and have Mrs Bitseach bring me lots of tea to get over it.

Although I was at work today (as usual - I barely know what the inside of my flat looks like at the moment!) I was able to spend a few minutes in a private act of remembrance and bowed my head for the two minutes' silence in memory of the dead of our wars, and the living who still put their lives on the line for their Queen, their Country, their Regiments, mates and families. My own grandfathers both fought in the First World War, one lucky enough to survive the Somme and the other, Mesopotamia, as an infantryman and engineer respectively.

As was the case in those days (oh halcyon days before everything had to be "shared" ad nauseam), each one barely spoke of what they went through, but the quality of the medals they won, and the citations for those medals speaks for their efforts, sacrifice and bravery. Their time in their respective arenas, exhausted, gassed, injured, as prisoners of war, their respect for and pity for their captors (sharing cigarettes and chocolate from their Red Cross packages and the Christmas 1914 (or was it 1916?) gift from Queen Anne, with their German guards, who were harshly treated by their officers even in those harshest of times) gave small snippets of a heroism I can only imagine (being, as I am, an abject coward!) from what few scraps of information we coaxed out of them as children and to whom War and "killing Germans" was tremendously exciting:

how he learned to smoke from these same Red Cross packages; the fear and malnutrition of Granda Bitseach's young guards; the time that, when being marched from one place to another as prisoners, a German sniper from afar started picking off the POWs, so the German officer made his men mix among the POWs, which stopped that particular bit of slaughter; fighting at Ypres (or "Wipers" as the Ulstermen called it); his injuries when he took over as "runner" to deliver the message to advance on the area around Thiepval and after the previous two runners had died trying, and himself almost killed in his successful attempt (which probably saved his life in the long run); the time the gas-shell came in close to him and he took as big a lungful of air as he could before the shell exploded mustard gas, and ran and ran and ran along the trench until he had to collapse and breath - which he was lucky to be able to continue doing.

This is family lore, extracted over 80 years - all he ever told me as a child was about how they tried to make the trenches more comfortable, digging little alcoves in the trench wall to store the Government issue binoculars and how he stuck his pocket watch, which he carried with him all his days, into the muddy wall so that others who didn't have such luxuries could also see the time... he didn't want to tell me how many Germans he'd killed (which is what I really wanted to know) but just how he tried to make life a little more comfortable in Hell.

We will remember them.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Both my grandfathers were also WWI veterans with one a Somme survivor. One of my grandfathers gained a medal for putting an injured soldier in a wheelbarrow and taking him back across the line to safety and lost a leg in the process. My own father took part in the D-Day landings in WWII.
I won’t be forgetting any of these hero’s. It’s a pity some of the scum don’t appreciate how lucky they are because of them!

12 November, 2006 10:00  
Blogger Rachel said...

At the going down of the sun, and in the morning.

We will remembber them.

Sad, that after the 'War to End All wars' we are still at war.

12 November, 2006 21:56  
Blogger Bitseach said...

PC-SW - just think, it could have been my grandad in that wheelbarrow being wheeled by your grandad...

Rachel - We'll fight until we're all dead, that's the saddest thing, we never seem to learn. Christian and Islamic fundamentalism for example - it reminds of what I've read of the Roundheads in Cromwell's day.

12 November, 2006 22:55  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

War is a truly terrible thing, but some wars like the the 2 world wars are just and necessary and thank god there are people brave enough to fight for our freedom.

13 November, 2006 22:59  

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My views are my own and would probably not endear me to my dear employers.