Friday 11 November 2022

Armistice Day 2022 Reflection - I wonder what my WW2 RAF pilot Father would make of 2022

What if? This year I hit a milestone birthday. I was 60. When my Father, who was an RAF pilot died in 1987, aged 69, I was 24. I couldn't contemplate being 60. I had no idea how I'd feel about life. If my father had not passed away, he'd be 105 now. I often have conversations with him, in my head. Actually they are monologues, as he tends not to speak too much. Before he passed away, I spent far too much time arguing with him and far too little listening. If he'd been alive, I am fairly sure I'd have sat down with him and written his life story, which would have probably been the best blog you'd see here, or possibly even a terrific book or film. In 2008, for Remembrance Sunday, I published his 1944 wartime diary. This chronicled his time as a bomber pilot in Italy, leading up to him being shot down and taken POW on 30th June. 

For most of my life, I felt that my Father had lived through far more extraordinary times than we lived in. Compared to the period of World War 2, life seemed very orderly and safe. For most of my adult life, my chief concern had been which pub to go to, which gig should we book tickets for and where should we go on our holidays. I've never worried about turning on lights, turning on the heating, being able to buy a turkey for Xmas. I've never lived through a period where the government restricted our freedom to the point where we were not allowed out of our homes.  Well I hadn't until 2020. Life has changed. 

As Armistice day and Remembrance Sunday approach every year, my thoughts turn to my Father. This year, as I think about what he went through, I find myself wondering what he'd make of it all. He made huge sacrifices during the war, saw terrible things and lost many close friends. My father hated fascism and fascists with a vengeance and I believe he'd never feel his efforts were wasted. He was proud that he'd helped defeat Fascism in Italy and the NAZI's in Germany. As a devout Roman Catholic, he had a strong sense of good and evil. The second world war was very black and white. 

Now though, the challenges are different. My father was a Conservative supporter. He admired Edward Heath as a leader for his efforts to bring Europe into the EEC. He believed that European integration was a force for peace. He also admired Margaret Thatcher, as he was a business owner and believed that the UK needed a leader who was prepared to stand up to the Unions. This was the cause of bitter rows between us. One of the last conversations I had a bout Politics with my father was quite polite. He explained that he felt Thatcher had it about right. She was pro European, signing the single Eurpoean act, but not rabidly so, far more prepared to put British interests first, such as with the budget rebate. During the Falklands, she'd displayed strong leadership against a Fascist junta, which he was totally supportive of. He felt that the Labour party of the 1980's was a shambles and not fit to govern. This was in 1986. After a decade of stagnation, the UK economy was starting to prosper. We were entering the UK "Loads of Money" era, where plumbers and electricians were earning good money and the stock market was booming. Thatcher was far less radical than many of her acolytes remember. She was cautious with her privatisations. The really silly ones, such as British Rail and The Post Office were not her babies. She'd yet to embark on the Poll Tax. When he passed away in 1987, she seemed almost unassailable. The cabinet had strong characters, who were grown ups and many didn't agree with her views. 

If he'd made it to 2022 and still had his marbles, I wonder what he'd make of it all now? I wonder what he'd make of #Brexit and it's supporters? My father was very keen on the idea of the UK joining the single currency. He hated the hassle of changing money and recognised the benefits for business. He loved the idea of travelling without a passport, although as an Australian passport holder, he always got hassle from UK customs. As an immigrant, he was sympathetic to immigrants. He also despised overt racism. I recall him giving a long monologue about how an Indian batsman should have been Player of the Season at the Cricket Club he was playing for and how he'd won them the League, only for some useless old duffer to get the accolade. I must say that my fathers idea of racism was very different to what we now consider racist. In the 80's all manner of words, such the N word and the P word were acceptable in conversation. He would never direct abuse at people, but these words and many others were used liberally. At his funeral, all manner of people showed up. One West Indian sprayer who'd worked for him told me that my Dad was the only boss who'd ever treated him fairly and he was almost in tears. He simply didn't care what colour or creed someone was, so long as they were good at what they were doing. 

His absolute hatred of fascists came out a few weeks after his death when an elderly Jewish acquaintance of his bought me a beer and told me of the rather humourous support Dad gave him in support of efforts to derail fascists in London, via groups such as the '62 group. Dad would lend them his van to go for rucks with the National Front. When Special Branch turned up to question him, he'd deny all knowledge and claim "Those dodgy ******** must have copied my number plate". He  told me that as my Dad had killed more Germans than anyone else he knew, in his bomber, he'd always be eternally grateful. It makes me wonder what he'd make of the likes of Trump, Farage and all of these other figures on the edge of fascism, always pushing the boundaries, attacking migrants etc, whilst never quite crossing the boundary.

As for the pandemic and things surrounding it. My eldest brother had polio in the 1950's. My Dad believed in science and once told me "I'll be forever grateful that you were able to get immunised, so I won't have to worry about you like we worried about Laurie". Luckily Laurie survived almost unscathed. I don't think he'd have too much time for anti vaxxers. 

I wonder what he'd make of the Tory party. That last chat we had about politics, where he said that the Conservatives were the party for sensible, practical business people, whereas Labour was for idealistic dreamers who couldn't run a whelk stall, seems to be a rather dated view, as we see the Health secretary who presided over the pandemic munching on kangaroo anuses in the Aussie jungle whilst still an MP.

What would he make of any of it? My Dad assured me that by the time I was his age, I'd be a Tory as well. He couldn't have been more wrong, but I now understand his arguments far better. 

There is one thing I know, without a shadow of a doubt. If he was still alive, on Sunday, he'd be putting on his old RAAF uniform and joining me for the remembrance ceremony, then a couple of pints at the Mill Hill Services Club then back for a nice big joint of Roast Beef. I miss him.

You can read more about my Fathers wartime experiences at the rather wonderful Aircrew Remembered site - R F/O. Lawrence Franklin Tichborne (

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