VE Day 2020

I almost managed to forget what today is...  VE Day was not the end of the war, but it was the end of a lot of people's wars, and I get that.  I also get why the triumphalism __was__ important, but I don't think that we have anything to be proud of any longer other than we made sure it came to an end.


I realise that ending the holocaust was __actually__ a huge moral victory, but there is a school of thought that it might not have happened at all if not under cover of war, so pick your revisionism and roll the dice - we didn't know the Austrian Corporal was actually going to do that when he stared his adventure into the Sudetenland and we saw that  as a bridge too far...


Ending war, was as great a victory, and we did that in Europe 75 years ago today and that is worthy of remembrance.


My paternal grandfather, Gramps, was a prisoner of war for a little more than the latter three years of the war.  Left on a beach during the evacuation of Crete, at a time in the war when it looked quite likely that we were losing, he was shipped to the Fatherland for a few months in a large POW camp and then sorted into a group that were sent to a brick factory in the Austrian Alps, to make bricks for the Fürher and bake cakes for themselves with powdered egg from their Red Cross parcels on the tops of the brick kilns.  It sounds bucolic, mountain air, a bit of hard labour and camaraderie, but he spoke of it rarely and though he often tried to put a brave spin on it, it was clear to me that he never recovered in some ways.  He lost a lot of weight and spent the rest of his life looking as though he would blow over in a stiff breeze, not that this mattered to me of course, but he never spoke of any of the experience with anything other than the stoicism that was the common tongue of his generation.


My maternal grandfather, Grandy, was an artillery man, and yes his hearing paid the price, and then some.  Stories about nearly being killed by an exploding artillery piece when some wet-behind-the-ears private dropped a shell, and the constant moving around and writing to my Granny in code so that she knew where he was, but the letters passed the censors.  He always had the grace to say he had an easy war, but even his experience of it was harder than anything I've ever known in my life...


My Nan, paternal grandmother, was a psychiatric nurse at Whitefield Psychiatric Hospital during the war - it's a Tesco now.  There is still a huge bomb crater a short distance from the Tesco from the night when every window in the joint was blown out by an off-target bomb in the Manchester Blitz.  She was in the cellar with the patients on mattresses on the floor, thank goodness, but still...  Her favourite story about the Manchester Blitz was the night she came off her bicycle having hit a brick that was in the road.  Her favourite story...


These people lived through a time that we cannot even truly conceive of.  Not only were they involved to some degree in a terrifying and all-consuming World War, they lived in a time when Polio was rife, then Scarlet Fever could carry you off as easily as a hundred other medical complaints.  They had to go to a concert hall to hear live music.  They got the news from the paper or the newsreel at the Saturday matinée or the lucky ones had a wireless - well by wartime a lot of homes had a wireless, but you get my drift...


Remembering the end of war in Europe is something we should be doing, and we should share their stories and keep their memories alive, but not for any kind of self-congratulatory, jingoistic pride.  We must NEVER let it happen again and we must make their sacrifices and their pain mean something.

VE Day 2020
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