We remember the two World Wars – and other wars – through the stories passed down from generation to generation.
Most involve severe hardship and physical and emotional trauma, some involve incredible luck or feats of bravery, and all help us to remember the brave men and women who willingly – and unwillingly – suffered for the future of their countries, at war and at home.
As WW2 veterans dwindle in numbers, it’s crucial to keep their stories alive, and to keep the horrifying reality of war closer than the glorifying propaganda that could so easily take hold once more.
1. ‘During World War 2, my great granddad was docked at Southampton about to travel to the Far East when he received a telegram to say his son (my Nan’s brother) had just been born.
‘Knowing there was a war on he crept from the boat in the dead of night and missioned it from Southampton to Oxford.
‘My Nan remembers waking up to first her dad in the house, then the military police/actual police breaking down the door to drag the man away from his newborn son.
‘He left Southampton the next day, and that was the last time he saw his family (the only time he met his son).’
2. ‘My Grandfather didn’t have the best qualifications to get into the RAF, and they let him in mostly because he told them about his motorbike and how he’d taken it to pieces.
‘They didn’t realise he hadn’t put it back together again yet.
‘Just before he passed away he stood up at his birthday and gave thanks to God for sending the mosquito which gave him malaria, meaning he was in hospital for six months and missed the end of the war where a lot of his friends were killed.
‘In later life he was always saying he was the last of his friends left and I think he’s at peace now he’s gone to meet them, at the ripe old age of 90.’
3. ‘My Granddad used to tell a sensational story about the day he cheated death at Normandy – because their boat wouldn’t start.
‘They were all ready to leave for Dunkirk, having spent the night on board ready for an early start, but there was a problem with the engine overnight and the boat wasn’t going anywhere.
‘So they stayed put while the other boats went to Dunkirk, many to meet their deaths. He always finished the story with “And when we woke up the buggers had gone without us!”‘