I was looking forward to the remembrance service in St Boswells church and then at the war memorial at the side of the A68 today. For many reasons one when my daughter and I went last year it gave me a great sense of being part of my local community both past and present and I guess the future. I was also struck that the ex soldier who took the flag with such respect and pride was also an ex councillor who had been on the board of the tourist board and whose wisdom I had respected and his love of the Scottish Borders admired but I hadn’t realised that he had also served his country. It gave me more admiration for him and I was quite upset when a few weeks later he died and this year along with others I wanted to pray at the church and thank God for these men who did so much for us.
Unfortunately my son isn’t well so my daughter has gone with a friend to represent us at the service and I am left here to ponder it all and why in the past few years I have been so moved by both the 11th November and remembrance Sunday.
In my younger days remembrance Sunday made me angry at the pointlessness of war and all the lives wasted. I studied both the First World War and the Second World War at School and University and the more I knew the angrier I became. It seemed obvious to me that the First World War was caused by Royal Families trying to taking more and more power and politicians behind them also thirsty for power that caused a war the horror of which no one should have to endure and which left a legacy of widows bringing children up alone and poverty and hardship for so many and so many lost lives or men who couldn’t forget what they had endured in the trenches. I also feel that the peace settlement that we imposed on Germany made revenge inevitable and paved the way for the evils of Hitler. The second world war had to be fought and I spent many nights scared of what would have happened if we hadn’t fought back against the evil of Nazism but I did feel it could have been prevented if the peace settlement of 1918 had shown more regard for the fault that lay on both sides.
So I have great reservations about fighting and wars and at the time I was studying had great admiration for the conscious objector and share my husband’s pride that his maternal grandfather was one. However as I have grown older and had children myself I have realised what my grandparents did in war and also what they and my grandparents must have suffered . It also makes me pray that my children won’t have to endure what they endured.
This leads me to this year when I have cried, prayed and remembered in a way that I haven’t in the past. I think it has to do with the fact that my husband’s grandfather has just died and the ties to that generation are now gone. We have his war card here with us but the person who was in that war is no longer here and can no longer share that with us. Nor is the courage of my husband’s maternal grandfather or grandmothers or my grandparents. My papa would have been the same age as my husbands grandfather had he lived both born in 1913 the year before the world was blown apart. On a recent trip home to my parents my mum told me facts that I hadn’t known about my papa. I always knew he was in the war and there is a point on the M8 that I always remember him. It is half way between Edinburgh and Glasgow and is where family folklore has him walking home to Glasgow to see his wife my grandmother and my mum only a young child. I hadn’t known that he was in the RAF and now have his cap as a memento to that nor on the leisure side had I known he had been a great footballer. I was unaware that anyone on my side of the family was sporty it made me proud but sad that I hadn’t asked when he was still alive.
My papa died in November 1987 so this time of year always makes me sad and I remember both him and my grandfather who died a month later and though a grumpy man in my memories he too fought for his country in the navy and perhaps he carried the pain of war with him. So this year on the 11th November I sat in the car with tears rolling down my cheeks at the two-minute service as I remembered my grandfathers who I did know, my grandmothers whom I would have loved to have known more, my husbands grandparents and that ex councillor and realised that my anger was with those who started the war not those who had were in the war to allow us to have the peace that we have today.
These brave people are leaving us now and moving on and in conclusion think that it is best summed up in a old Runrig song called the “old boys”
“The old boys, are all leaving, leaving one by one, where young birds go flying, spread your wings and run, But over the fields, by the drystone walls, This eagle will come no more.”