Armistice Day

Today is the 12th of November here, but in other parts of the world it is still 11.11.11 I did think about being silent at 11am yesterday and in fact I think I was in the shower so I probably was. Not, I hasten to add, that I get up that late, I had been up and writing since around 6am.

Anyway, this weekend is the Armistice weekend in Cambridge and it is a BIG weekend. They have a Mounted Rifles parade today and a special memorial service tomorrow and all weekend there are military demonstrations and displays at Memorial Park. We are planning on popping in to see the WWII display and someone singing songs of WWII this afternoon. Mum will wear her RSA badge and get in for free. She won the war in Rotorua, she was a W.A.A.F in the Air Force dental section and did a very good job of holding officers’ heads still for the dentist and mixing amalgam fillings.

Both my Grandfathers served in WWI. One was in the Army and was gassed and thrown on a pile of corpses with a toe tag on. He moved at a very opportune moment and was recovered and invalided home, where he lived to be 101. The other was a horseman in the Mounted Rifles in Egypt and when they came home they shot their horses so the Arabs didn’t get them. Other members of their families also went to war. Uncle Frank was gassed and didn’t live long after the war. Uncle Arthur was killed.  Uncle Jock was killed.

Actually Uncle Jock, Jack Allen Hicks, is a sad story. He enlisted in 1914 as a driver in an artillery regiment, survived both Gallipoli and the Somme and was killed October 24th 1918. They were coming from Belgium through Northern France on a final push for victory. He was in a patrol of 20 men, 19 New Zealanders and one man from Kent. They took the surrender of a German machine gun nest and when the Germans discovered they were only a patrol, they put their arms down, picked up their machine gun and killed them all. They are buried in a tiny churchyard in Northern France and the villagers tend their graves. Jock would have come home and farmed the family farm here in Cambridge. But he didn’t, so my widowed Great-grandmother sold the farm to my Grandfather, who was married to her daughter. War changes family histories.

My Father was a Spitfire pilot in WWII and flew for three years, in England and the Middle East. When he came home at the end of 1943 only four of his training course of 20 men were still alive. Three Uncles were in the Army. One of Mum’s cousins was killed in the Air Force and another served in the Pacific and came home.

As you may know, I have edited my Dad’s letters home from the war into an e-book and it is available for free at Smashwords and for .99 cents at Amazon.

It has had one 5 star review and has been downloaded 278 times at Smashwords. I am delighted that his fascinating account of service in war-time has proved popular. Today I will wear his medals with pride, he had both European and Italian campaign stars and he had a QSO (Queen’s Service Order) miniature on there as well.

Tomorrow Mum is going to stand up in church and speak for a few minutes about him and his war service. I have written her a little speech but anyone who knows Mum, knows she won’t stick to it!

So that’s it, our day to remember all those who served, those who survived and those who made the ultimate sacrifice. It would be good to say it never happened again. That mankind learned a lesson from all the senseless slaughter and the loss of a generation or two of magnificent young men. But we know that isn’t true. War rages somewhere all the time and I suspect it always will. I know women who say that if women “ruled” the world there would be no war, I suspect they’ve never seen girls in a playground. I think it is more relevant to say that if the politicians and commanders had to sacrifice all their own children first, war would be harder to declare. Whatever happens, I will never forget them.



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