I remember when I was a child my mother telling me that for a long time after my Dad returned from the Second World War he had terrible nightmares. I know very little about his experiences in the RAF, but he served in Egypt and Italy. He came back late because not long before the end of the war he burnt his hands trying to rescue a pilot from a burning plane.
A more positive memory is that one of my mother’s favourite photos of my Dad was of him in uniform looking out from the back of a forces vehicle with a big smile. When my Dad was in his seventies he went on a trip back to Italy and his memories were very important to him. One of his proudest moments was being asked by the British Legion to carry the flag at a Remembrance Service.
Some of my memories are painful and some pleasant. I guess that is true of most of us. I remember being bullied by the gang of lads from the street where I lived. They jeered at me, calling me ‘four eyes’ because I wore glasses. One time their leader was sitting on top of me laughing at having me helpless under him. I also recall the painful period when my parents went through a time of real difficulty. There were weeks of silences that you could cut with a knife. One scene which is etched in my memory is when I had to shelter under the table while things were being thrown by my Mum at my Dad.
The good memories are of friendships. I remember a couple of teachers at school who gave me opportunities to find new skills. Mr West encouraged me to help in the school greeenhouse, where, with my cousin Gordon, we grew tomatoes and beautiful Chrysanthemums. My best school friend was Raymond, who had been disabled by polio. I often helped him by carrying his books. But he was the one who carried me socially and gave me confidence to develop my own sense of worth.
Some memories can disable us even years later. Others can remind us of how good life can be. So on Remembrance Day, it is not just about reflecting on war but recollecting the pain and pleasure of life which has brought us to this point. Then, looking forward to creating new and positive memories for the future.