War and Remembrance*   Leave a comment

September 3, 2015. Here I sit working on this blog post, with Cagnie Cat, one of Mom’s pedigreed Siamese cats (Cagnie and Lacie) sitting in front of me purring…

September 3, 1919. Today would have marked my mom’s 96th birthday, had she made it that far…  But honestly, I wouldn’t have wished the pathetic twilight of her last few years on anybody. She hopped off her twig, rang down the curtain, shuffled off her mortal coil and joined the bleeding choir invisibule October 3, 2010, a month after her  91st… I’m not sure if joining the choir invisibule would be elevation to paradise or descent into the abyss, both for her and all the other choristers therein, for she was tone deaf, and hated music.

Dead Parrot

September 3, 1939. Fortuitously enough, today also marks the 76th anniversary of the start of World War II, not a number usually commemorated; for some reason we seem to like multiples of 5. Mom was in Malta, working as a nanny. I imagine after the declaration of war her employment was pretty much terminated. I’m not sure when after that, that she volunteered for the WAAF (Women’s Auxiliary Air Force) and spent the war driving lorries (we call them “trucks” over here) eventually obtaining the rank of Sergeant. “My work was so exemplary I was recommended for a commission” she told me. “And at my interview the Interviewing Officer asked me two questions: “What school did I go to?” and “What did my father do for a living?”

And that was that, for she attended a church-sponsored charity school in her village, and her dad was a lowly carpenter. The English have always valued lineage and useless knowledge over competence, and though she liked to tell that story, her entire life, I don’t think she ever got it…

September 2, 1945. Six years less a day, marked the end of World War II with the signing of the unconditional surrender document  on the deck of the USS Missouri by Shigemitsu Mamoru representing the Japanese government. The most appalling war in human history, hopefully it will retain that distinction for some time yet. Started with one pair of belligerents, England and GerJapanese Surrender, USS Missouri - September 2, 1945many, ended with an entirely different pair of belligerents, America and Japan… even if representatives from Australia, Canada, China, England, France, New Zealand and Russia were present at the surrender ceremony… How many of us were incinerated? About 65 million, 3% of the world’s population. At the height of the blitz, Mom told us she lost someone she loved, every day. The best man at my parent’s wedding in 1944 as the war was winding down was their fourth choice, the other three having been killed or “missing in action.”

That doesn’t include the Holocaust, BTW. (At least 13.5 million, once you do a bit of research: The Nazis didn’t just hate the Jews.)

To watch and listen to these articles.. to look at the photographs of the surrender ceremony on Google Images — the one at right was one of the few colour ones — I feel light-headed and go kinda numb and cold inside.

But I suppose I would: Grotesque though it is to say, I am one of likely several hundred thousand people who owe Adolf Hitler a debt of gratitude: If it weren’t for him, I wouldn’t be here: My Dad — a farm boy from the Annapolis valley — would never have fortuitously chatted up my Mom — a carpenter’s daughter who lived in Didmarten, Gloucestershire — in the Mess Hall at RAF Colerne in early 1944.

I think.

My Bro-in-Law has my mother’s diaries, my dad’s Air Force log book, their photo albums, and having not spoken to him in over two years, I doubt somehow I’m ever going to get them back, so I’ll never be certain of the dates…

… Recalling those absent articles reminded me of a time in my late teens, came across a steamer trunk in the storage space stuffed full of unsorted letters and memorabilia from the 1940s and ’50s — all of it priceless really — one of them being a letter from my Mom to her brother whom I’m named after. She wrote it to him just after he’d been killed in a training accident in RCAF Trenton in 1942. I folded the letter reverently and put it back.

I searched high and low for that trunk in 2012 as I was cleaning out the Agéd P.’s house, never found it.

Alas, Dad had a pathological capacity for destroying or discarding precious things he didn’t value. He was cleaning the garage in 1973, couldn’t be bothered to open a box he was about to pitch. I opened it, and in it was the clock — now nearly 300 years old — that had been in my Mom’s family all that time. It now graces my table near my computer.Black Clock

So very possibly the trunk was long gone by the time I looked for it. Possibly B-in-L has that item too, my departed sister Scylla being more than a bit of a pack-rat.

Or possibly Circe might have it, since my older sister Charybdis had the same propensity.

No use asking them tho’. They never answer my e-mail, doubt they’ll respond to a registered letter however ersatz friendly and unctuously polite. The evidently irretrievable loss of all this family stuff hurts.

*   *   *

Wade Frazier in his gargantuan website A Healed Planet makes a grave case for his assertion “winnowing the innocent from the guilty is a nearly pointless exercise in the end.” Still, for me, for any of us? 70 years later and World War II is just about beyond the recall of living memory? The idea of a Nazi victory doesn’t bear thinking about, even if The Third Reich likely wouldn’t have lasted half that time: It was just too evil.

But they came, so incredibly close. Mom told me on more than one occasion, that at the height of the blitz they were with 48 hours of knocking out the RAF.

My parents thought the military an ideal career path for me. Proof positive their war experience had left them both batshit crazy.
* Taken from the title of Herman Wouk’s novel War and Remembrance, which is now on my “booket list.” Hey! — I only filch my material from the best!


Posted September 3, 2015 by Capt. Roy Harkness in Uncategorized

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