I used to dread Armistice Day as a child. My father was called up and very reluctantly had to leave my mother and my brother David, who was born in late 1937. In 1944 he went into D-Day on a landing craft, with a commando regiment. He had been trained as a gunner and as such he was on the beach in the first few minutes of D-Day. What he saw that day changed my father for life. Every year he would cry on Armistice Day. To see him so upset was heartbreaking.
My mother, too, would insist I took part in the two minutes silence. Usually at 11am we were walking to church and we had to stand in the street whilst the rest of the world carried on as usual. I found that very embarrassing, particularly in my teenage years, but my mother would tell me it was a small price to pay for what others had given for our freedom.
My husband’s father was a pilot before the war, and volunteered in 1939 at the outset, but luckily for him, did not have the right school-tie to be taken on as a pilot. This was in 1939, and later on, the RAF was desperate for pilots. He spent his war years in the RAF working on airplane engines all over the world. His experiences were life-changing for him but in a different way from my father’s.
I just wonder what our parents would make of London today. Our Home Secretary, Suella Braverman, has whipped up so much hatred that there are 2000 policemen on the streets and already the violence has started. Yet again, I am ashamed to be British. Armistice Day is about remembering all those who have paid the ultimate price in war.
To see how the war had affected my father, I really think if I had been called up to serve my country, I would have chosen to be a pacifist. The destruction and hatred of war I find difficult to rationalise. That, without doubt, is why I believed so greatly in the European Union which has been one of the world’s greatest peace projects, winning the Nobel Peace Prize in 2012 for securing “the advancement of peace and reconciliation, democracy and human rights in Europe” over six decades.
Without one shade of doubt, Armistice Days in my childhood home left an indelible mark.