Saturday, 7 June 2014

It was D-Day yesterday

but it went almost unmentioned here. The Prime Minister went off to France along with the last few survivors of that day. There was a little news footage of them and of a 93yr old American who parachuted in again seventy years later. That was about it.
Locally, most of the schools do not appear to have mentioned the occasion - or, if they have, they have done it only in passing. The Whirlwind's school had assembly and it was mentioned there. One of the former students was a nurse in the army at the time. She was working in France but not in Normandy. The Whirlwind came home for the weekend in a very sombre mood after listening to "this really old lady who still went on being alive after the most awful horrible things happened".
My father did not go to war. He would have enlisted but his eyesight was so bad they refused to take him. He was never sorry about that. He had no desire to go to war. He is, at heart, a pacifist but says he would protect his family.
I often wonder what sort of person he would be now if he had been to war. He is a very gentle person. It takes a great deal for him to express anger even though he may feel it. His GP recently said to me, "He's the sort of person I want to take home with me he so lovely." War would have changed him. He would not be the person he is now.
War changed many men. They came back different men. Many of them never talked about it. Some of them seemed unchanged but, underneath it all, there must have been - and must still be - the most appalling memories. There would be - and no doubt are - the really dark moments that come up behind you and grab you unexpectedly. They would perhaps come at what should be the happiest moments. They would come with a fragment of a song, seeing a young man in uniform walk along the street.
Years ago I knew a farmer who had been to war. It was a hot day. We were waiting for my father and someone else in the main street of a tiny country community when an air force jet flew over head. He looked up at it and then saw that I had shivered slightly. He put his hand briefly on my shoulder and said,
"It's all right - but you never forget."
He didn't say any more. I never said anything. I was about twelve at the time and I never mentioned his words to anyone - but I have never forgotten.


Jan said...

I have a memory similar to yours. I was born mid WWII and lived at my grandmother's place in Sydney's inner west, not far from water as the crow flies.

I have never liked searchlights, even at air shows or similar. They make me feel very uneasy.

Only a few years ago, I was talking to someone around my age. He mentioned the same feeling, quite unprompted by me and suggested it came from the mini-sub attacks on Sydney harbour from that night.

I finally realised the source of my fear. I would have heard sirens and very likely seen the lights. I can remember the glass in the French doors at grandmother's house wing being taped to stop shattering. I guess there was also quite possibly discussion among the adults who did not realise the effects on the toddler nearby.

Dad was in the Army, although based in Australia in a unit kept fairly secret. He too spoke little of the time there and he would not attend reunions, marches etc.

Perhaps there is something you have had happen too like that. I still feel very uneasy if I see a searchlight and very occasionally have bad dreams of an unknown enemy strafing the harbour. That connection just occurred to me as I wrote this. What secrets the mind holds!

catdownunder said...

I wasn't born then and I cannot remember any event like that in my own early life. We lived in a small country town when I was a toddler and although I had some very traumatic things happen to me I don't think any involved air-craft. (I suspect too much imagination does not help.)