Sunday just gone was Remembrance Day in the UK and something when I was younger I didn’t take a lot of interest in. As I have grown into adulthood, I have become aware of the sacrifices made to keep us safe, to live in the way our society does and it brought alive the war time memories as told to me by both my Parents.
Stories that have stayed with me during my lifetime, stories I’ve shared with my children and hope that they listen and take on board our war time family history and learn through the laughter and pain, the same way my parents did and the same way that I have done, as I have finally absorbed the learning that these stories have taught me.
When I was little there were times when my father would waken me from sleep as I heard him screaming in his. It would scare me as he sounded so frantic and panicked. I would hear my mother soothe him and finally our house would once again be quiet.
One day I asked, ” Dad, what are your nightmares about?”
My ruddy faced, loving father looked at me seriously and responded. “Where we were stationed in the war( World War Two, he was in the RAF,) there was a pub close by. One night as we were sipping our pints a plane crash landed in the field closest to it. It was one of our own and had been hit by a German war plane’s bullets and had managed to limp back to England, attempting to return home to base.
We all ran over as the flames licked the exterior of the metal.
As we grew closer we could hear the men inside screaming, desperately calling out for help, they were burning to death. We tried our best to get to them, but the flames were just too hot and there was nothing we could do but stand and listen.
That’s what we did and that’s why some nights I wake screaming. I’ve never been able to forget the sound of their screams as they burnt alive.”
I looked at my father, not even able to contemplate what that must have been like for him – I had watched old war movies with him over the years and he would laugh as the planes would return to base, clean and fresh – telling me about the body parts he would have to remove, the excrement and wee that needed to be washed away, as the young men in the planes would mess themselves because they were so afraid and the blood that would need to be mopped up before the planes could be reloaded and sent out on another sortie.
Although this is terrible, he would also tell me about the opportunities war time gave him. Being a semi-professional football player, playing within the RAF – he believed football was the thing that kept him alive and stopped him from being sent abroad and most likely to what would have been certain death.
His war time memories were full of laughter and tears; both he and my mother through their stories showed me how to come through adversity and how to enjoy even the toughest of times. Because they knew this well and I know from this I have learnt that even in tragedy there is laughter and in pain there are moments of relief and I for one will never forget…
Do you remember being told war time stories?