Yesterday we celebrated the 75th anniversary of the fall of Rome, and at 0630 British Double Summer Time tomorrow the liberation of France started, also 75 years ago. Thus setting up a pincers attack on Nazi Germany. This was the climax of the European war, not the end of the beginning but the beginning of the end.
Like most of those of my age, I knew many of the veterans of those campaigns (the ones in the Pacific as well). Almost all of them are gone now, and we are much poorer for it.
If memory serves, Chalcedon’s father was at Dunkirk and served throughout the war. But C, like most of our generation, especially the guys, don’t talk about our emotions.
But Jess’s Grandfather in law, featured on our blogs briefly, when he left us back in 2012, and what she wrote, tells much of that generation.
Tom was not a Christian, although his wife (of 60 years) was; but he was a good man, although not given to what he used to call “sentiment”. The only time I ever saw him cry was when his wife died. She was the sweetest Christian soul I have ever known – a gentle and caring lady of the old school, who soothed away the ruffled tempers Tom’s attitude could leave in its wake. I never knew anyone who did not love her; I can’t even imagine how anyone could not.
Her death left him bereft. From that point his mental condition deteriorated, and for most of the last two years he had to be in a home because he had lost his faculties. I used to visit him every month, as the Captain was not here (as he isn’t now). He was a gruff old thing, and got gruffer as his condition worsened. But the last couple of times I saw him he just held my hand and smiled; and it was me who cried.
I cried for a man who had lost what he loved most. Like most of those of that generation, he and his wife seldom, if ever, demonstrated their love. They called each other “mother” and “father” and were just about the sweetest couple I ever saw in their selfless devotion to each other. I once said that and Tom replied: “Don’t be so daft girl – mother wouldn’t like it!” ‘Mother’ said to me later: “I liked that Jessica, but don’t ever tell father I told you so.” That’s how they were. They don’t make them like that any more.
She died just short of their sixtieth wedding anniversary. With Tom goes my last living link to the World War II generation; my last contact with a man born in the reign of George V; my last link with my own father’s generation. It is the passing of an era – Tom – I loved you more than you’d ever let me say – and I will miss you always – God Bless and good night old soldier.
From: In Memoriam: Tom
She told me a bit more in Email, enough to intrigue me enough to do a bit of research. Here is what I learned.
Tom served in the 7th Armoured Brigade, the Desert Rats (the Green Rats) throughout World War 2, that means he was at all the battles of the British forces in North Africa until at least the relief of Tobruk. He may well have been one of those young soldiers, both British and German, who sang this song in Tobruk. [see below]
In early 1942 the brigade moved to that stepchild of everybody’s war effort, Burma just in time to have a hand in the defense of India from the Japanese.
In 1943 they returned to the middle east being based in Iraq and Egypt until in 1944 they joined the Canadian Corps in Italy, for the duration of the war.
From: The Last Crusader
Thus Tom, Like C’s father, likely spent more time in combat than the time America was in the war. Neither one was anything special, not even an officer, but it was they, and their American, Russian, Australian, New Zealander, Polish, French, Brazilian, and still other compatriates who rid the world of the most monstrous empires seen to this point.
And how far they had to go, in 1941, if English was not your native language, you were not a free man or woman Our world is their legacy.
And so today and tomorrow as we, all over the world, honor those men and women, whom we call “The Greatest Generation” led by the very last veteran still leading, the Queen herself it’s worth reflecting on what we have contributed to our legacy.
And you know, Tom, in his turn with the German soldiery, probably sat in the bars in Tobruk singing this song.
On the night of June 4th, General Eisenhower said these words, “OK, let’s go”. The rest is history written by the soldiers.