Driving home from Lucas’s place this evening I heard the news on the car radio. Another New Zealand SAS soldier has been shot dead in Afghanistan. Obviously, my heart goes out to his grieving family. And the arguments will start over whether we should be there, again.
It pulled me up because I’m typing my Dad’s letters into the computer so I’m reading his thoughts as a 23-25 year old in the middle of a world war. He describes it as a “ghastly business” although readily admitting that he had some amazing experiences. He was shot up at least five times and made it home and crashed twice in the desert. One thing I have discovered by reading what others said about him was that he was a ‘damn fine pilot.’ He goes out of his way to pass tips on to youngsters, things he says saved his life many times over France.
But the thing that makes me think is the fact that he killed at least one man. He shared several “kills” with various wingmen (i.e. two planes were firing on one enemy aircraft and it is unclear who actually fired the bullets that ripped the plane apart) but on one occasion he found himself alone with a German ME 109 bearing down on a bomber and took the action necessary to blow the plane out of the sky and watch it hurtle to the ground with black smoke pouring out of it. I know he thought about that man, wondered who he was, where he came from, did he leave a wife? He planted a tree to honour him many years later. It reminds me of a line from a song about WWI, “at both ends of the rifle we’re the same.” Sure, he felt bitter about his friends and he watched many of them die, and they all hated “old Hitler” and it was, genuinely, kill or be killed. He expressed a desire to come home and have a ‘go at the Japs” and after the Pacific heated up at the end of 1941 he admits to thinking all the time about home and what will happen if the Japs invade….but he also talks at length about wanting to take an active role after the war to make sure this never happens again and if it does happen again in 25 years time, then that would constitute a betrayal of all those who died willingly so that those who were left could live in freedom. And it keeps happening. Mankind keeps going to war. If it were up to me I would institute a global law that we must do what the tribe in Papua New Guinea do, fight until someone draws first blood, right, you’re the winner, now let’s all go home.
On another note my book of short stories, “Stirred not Shaken” has been accepted into the Smashwords Premiere catalogue as well. That’s good news. It goes out to all the major ebook retailers in a day or two. And it will be free. Hopefully people will find it, read it and maybe want to read the novel too. I am about three days away from finishing, “Our Father’s War” and I shall upload that to Smashwords and Amazon as well, 99 cents at Amazon and free at Smashwords. I am going to print a copy for each of my three brothers and every one of Dad’s grandchildren, so one day they can share it and the knowledge of this brave man will live on. And I want them to know that there was a girl in England who called him “Halsey Palsey”, it is worth reading for that alone.