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We will remember them

November 11, 2008

rememberOn Sunday I attended the Remembrance Day service in Alexandra Park, Hastings.

[Here are the photos from the Hastings & St Leonards Observer]

It was the first Remembrance Sunday since the death of my own grandfather last December, so it felt especially important for me to be there.

My grandfather was in the Royal Corps of Signals and served in North Africa, Sicily and the invasion of Italy during the Second World War.

He was a man of few words. The War had been highly formative for him. He would often tell me stories when I was younger about what had happened to him: to the point that my grandmother and my mum would sigh when he recounted an old story once again to me.

It did not seem significant at the time that, despite running his own small, successful business, and being a well-known church member and sportsman in St Helens (his, and my home town) he spoke so persistently about the War.

Now, as a mental health social worker, I wonder if what he was experiencing was some sort of post-traumatic stress response.

During the last couple of years before his health and his mental faculties declined, he told me a new story of having been by the side of his best friend when he was shot in the head and killed by a sniper, whilst the men were out trying to restore communications lines.

We all know that war scars and maims – and not just physically. That it affects civilians as well as military personnel. And it is these personal stories that make people’s bravery and suffering real to those of us that have never experienced at first hand the horrors of war.

A few British soldiers remain who served in the First World War. What terrible things they must have seen. What terrible things they may never have spoken about.

It was instructive for me that my grandfather passionately disagreed with the war in Iraq. He used to say of Tony Blair that he would not have acted the way he did if he had experienced war himself…

I was pleased to see that there were many people – young and old, black and white, rich and poor – gathered together in Alexandra Park. I took my daughter along and, inevitably, she started squawking during the two minute silence!

We will each have had our own reasons for attending and paying our respects.

As the preacher said: in remembering, we are keeping the bravery of our war dead and their comrades vivid, and part of our own lives more fully.

So, Colour Sergeant Brown, I thank you and your best friend Reg for your courage and self-sacrifice.

For all those local people who have lost loved ones, or whose loved ones are currently serving in Iraq or Afghanistan, my thoughts are with you.

‘At the going down of the sun, and in the morning, we will remember them.’

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