There are still two days to go until Remembrance Sunday which this year, so very appropriately, coincides with Armistice Day, marking the end of the War to End All Wars. Which - tragically for everyone who fought and died
believing it to be so - did not.
I am in remembering mood, partly owing to the fact that at our Singing for Pleasure choir this morning our conductor, the Redoubtable
Muriel, had especially chosen songs of the moment. So we sang Polly Oliver, about the feisty young miss who cut her hair close to her head, died her face brown and “went for a soldier” to old London Town. There was a bit of discussion (members
of our Choir never let slip an opportunity for chatter) about what Our Polly used to dye her face - walnuts, somebody ventured? Maybe Bisto? I whispered to my friend Sue, giving us both the giggles. For added local colour, we sang Sussex by the Sea and Brighton
Camp, followed by Lilli Marlene which was, of course, a favourite for troops on both sides of the conflict.
It was, however, the singing of “We’ll
Gather Lilacs” which touched my heart, with its longing for a return to days of normality, when couples separated by war would be able to start to rebuild their lives. All of a sudden I was thinking about my dear Mum and Dad and the story of their separation
and reunion, as told in my Mum’s book “War and Me” which Mr B and I had published after her death in 1995. Oh, how proud she would be to know she was a published author! It’s a story of ordinary folk, no special heroics - aside, that
is, from the heroism of fighting for one’s country in the deserts of North Africa or keeping the home fires burning for two little lads back in England.
how my Mum described, with such painful honesty, the day her Len left for war. “I felt bereft as he marched down to road with kit bag and full pack, meeting up with others who were making their way to the station. When we have talked about it since,
he bitterly complains because I did not go to the station. In those days whatever he said was right, and I am sure that he wanted us at the gate and not at the station. Sadly there was no second chance.
“He went, and we never saw him again for four years, nine months and three weeks - a lifetime.”
I still cry when
I read that.
How fortunate, then, that there was a happy reunion after all those years: “When Len came home we made a big sign with Welcome Home on
it.” (So that’s the origin of all my Birthday Banners!)
“I always talked about Len to the boys so they knew what to expect. Tony of course knew
him but Phil had never seen his father. Tony was the first to look through the window to see who was at the door and he shouted: “Here’s Daddy!” Great excitement and no strangeness, it was wonderful.”
Impossible for us, today, to truly understand the immensity of a safe return from the constant threat of death or injury.
If any of you, dear readers, would like a copy of “War and Me”, just send me an email with your name and address to email@example.com. No charge - just drop a contribution into a Poppy Campaign
collecting box in remembrance of all those who died, all those who struggled to keep a home together in the absence of their loved ones - and all the men like my dear Dad, who returned and strove to make the world a better place for those of us, like me, my
children and my grandchildren, who were yet to be born.