Sunday 11 November 2018

Remembrance Sunday 100 years on and nothing learned

Today is the 100th Anniversary of the end of' the war to end all wars'. It is a poignant day for me. My Grandfather James Fanning fought in the trenches of France. He was gassed and died in 1948 from the damage caused to his lungs. I never knew him, but by all accounts he lost his spark in France. My mother told me on several occasions that it was only later in life that she really understood him and his behaviour. My father, Flt/Lt Lawrence Tichborne RAAF was an Australian who volunteered to join the Royal Air Force. He flew Wellington Bombers for 40 squadron, was shot down in 1944 over Rumania, taken prisoner of war, escaped and made his was back to the UK. His best friend F/O Murphy, the planes rear gunner was killed when the plane was shot down. My father was taken by the Rumanian airforce to identify his body and to attend his funeral. I asked him about the experience. He said the Rumanian Airforce were some of the most decent people he'd ever met. After the service, they asked him if he'd like to see their graveyard. It was four times larger than the Allies section. They gave him food and drink. The base commander told him that the Rumanians had great respect for the British and had only joined the Axis to try and prevent Stalin seizing Rumania. They knew they were losing the war and were terrified. Despite the fact he'd been bombing them and trying to kill them, he only ever encountered kindness from the Rumanian people.

When my father returned to the UK, my Irish grandfather took him for a beer. At the bar, a British Army officer tried to push in front of my Grandfather to get served. My Grandfather, although a small man was feisty and stood his ground. The Officer said "Get out of my way you disgusting IRA terrorist". My Grandfather, a small man but one of great strength replied "Let me tell you something Son. I served in the trenches. I saw thousands die. If the IRA fights the British for a thousand years, they will never kill as many fine young Englishmen as the Officer Corps of the British Army did in the trenches. Now find your manners and wait your turn". My Father, who unlike my Grandfather was a large man of rather ill temper at times was about to step in, however the Officer was so completely put in his place that he backed off.

When my father recounted the incident, I asked him what he chatted about with my Grandfather. I was intrigued. He said that my Grandfather really only said a couple of things. First he said "I'm really sorry son that you had to find out what war was really like" (presumably referring to the loss of my fathers friend). He then made a very interesting statement that my father said troubled him from time to time. My Grandfather told him "You know I've often thought of the the people in the trenches. The very finest ones were the ones which went. What does that make us?". Like many survivors of atrocities, I think my Grandfather had a degree of guilt. I'm not sure my Father did. He always wanted to live and embrace life.

I used to discuss the war at length with my father. I was fascinated by his stories. He told me that he believed there would always be wars. He said that it was simply human nature and no matter how bad things were in a war, eventually those who fought die and the lessons are forgotten. We've lost all of the generation that fought in WWI and most who fought in WWII. Have we learned?

I won't be tuning into the Remembrance Day coverage on the TV. It disgusts me to see so many politicians who have blood on their hands laying wreaths. We had a minutes silence at Mass this morning. I payed my respects privately, recalling the suffering. I wear my poppy with pride in solidarity with those who have gone. As my Grandfather said "They were the very finest ones". What does that make us.

I made a short video commemorating the 100 years of conflicts which our servicemen have seen for The False Dots anti war anthem "Action Shock".

We owe a huge debt to those who laid down their lives. We also owe it to them to make the world a better place and to try and prevent any more needless bloodshed, misery and hatred.

Don't forget to make a date in your diary for The Barnet Eye Xmas party and Community awards at Mill Hill Rugby Club on Fri 14th December at Mill Hill Rugby Club at 8pm. We really hope you can come down and say Hi. Admission is Free.


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