I'm always completely overwhelmed by my feelings on Remembrance Sunday. When the children were at the Leys, I always went to the service for Remembrance, and was in tears before I knew it. The lovely chapel was full of wonderful children, with morning-bright faces (even if most of them didn't particularly want to be there), and I always read the names of those who had gone, often straight from school, to fight in two world wars and lost their lives. It was incredibly poignant to stand there and sing the usual hymns, knowing that 17 and 18 year-old boys from that very place had been in the bloody trenches and had died the most horrific deaths. They all were someone's son. This morning, I phoned Son and left a rather tearful message to this effect. And then I phoned Daughter to say the same - they are my closest and dearest and it seemed right to talk to them at that moment. Daughter was standing on the balcony with Grandson and they were watching the Remembrance parade and service at the War Memorial across the road. Son, who phoned me back later to see if I was alright, was off to play football! Life goes on..
My maternal Grandfather was in the First World War, fighting in those same bloody trenches. He was in an artillery regiment mostly made up of friends from Tottenham. They were all down-to-earth London blokes who supported the Spurs and didn't stop joking whatever happened. I remember my Grandad telling us that he had been in the trenches one day with his best mate, when shells were bursting all around them. He turned to his mate to say "Blimey, that was close!", only to see that his friend's head had been "blown orf." He told this story often; it was described without drama, and with a touch of his usual cockney humour - it must have been just one of many such experiences in that war.
My Father wasn't able to go to the Second World War because he had only one eye. He lost his right eye in an accident when he was a boy, with the result that he could never stand the sight of his own blood. (I clearly remember him fainting clean away one day in the back garden when he cut his hand chopping wood for the fire.) Anyway, my Dad was an Air Raid Warden, which meant he had to help people into Air Raid shelters, and go round checking that windows were blacked-out and no lights were showing (in case it gave the German planes some idea of where to drop their bombs). I don't know what else he did, but I'm sure he would have preferred to go to war.
In their days, my Father's and Grandfather's, the idea of going to war and fighting for your country was heroic. Young boys would lie about their age to get the chance to fight. That's why Remembrance Sunday brings such poignant feelings for me. Here we all sit: happy, healthy, safe and free because of the ultimate sacrifice made by so many glorious young men (and women). If they could see us now, I do hope that they would think it was all worth it.
"Time like an ever-rolling stream bears all her sons away.
They fly, forgotten, as a dream flies at the break of day."