In between me driving to work this morning and my return journey this evening, the lampposts in my town have sprouted poppies!
I suppose if we now have a ‘season of Halloween’ rather than just one night, then even more reason to have a season of remembrance, even if Remembrance Sunday is still a month away at the time of writing.
We visited Bateman’s the other weekend, the home of Rudyard Kipling and family. Much of an upstairs exhibition room is devoted to his son John Kipling and tells of his father’s efforts to have him accepted as an officer in WW1 despite his poor eyesight, and of his subsequent death and disappearance. The visitor learns of the profound effect this had on Rudyard and of his strenuous efforts to locate his son’s last resting-place, which was not found in his lifetime. Indeed, there is controversy still over whether the grave that today bears his name is really his.
I reflected during the journey home on how fortunate my generation is not to have experienced the realities of a world war. This is not to overlook the sufferings of Forces families affected by modern conflicts, but I mean the widespread impact on the home front that our forebears endured. My parents and my grandparents lived through world wars. My Granny was in service during the First World War, and I wrote of her brother Bert in a previous blog. My Grandad on the other side of the family spent a number of months as a prisoner of war behind the German lines in 1918, experiencing hunger and hardship. His brother was killed at around the same time that he was captured, and letters survive which indicate the efforts his family went to to discover the details of his death. They didn’t have the resources and influence of the Kiplings, but the need to know and to achieve closure affected all social groups.
In the Second World War my Dad was in a reserved occupation, but served in the Home Guard. My Mum had to go and live with relatives in the country while her parents remained in Croydon until the bombing eventually got too much. Granny’s diary describes nights spent in the Anderson Shelter in the garden.
We take it so much for granted that we can just get on with our lives, but right now we don’t have to look very far afield to see people whose lives are very much affected by the consequences of war.
In this season of remembrance, ‘We Will Remember Them’.