The Second World War threw a long shadow over our family. Grandma had lost her brother, Grandpa had lost his youth. He had spent 6 years in the Middle East and never wanted to see a grain of sand again. The tales he told in later years made us realize how hard it had been. Not everybody had suffered like him. Uncle Tom's face lit up when he reminisced about the juicy oranges he had eaten in Sorrento and how the girls flocked round him, Grandpa's friend S... had had the time of his life in Canada. His brother-in-law had been posted to Wick, one of the wettest and windiest places on the East coast of Scotland. Some years after the war Grandpa went to Wick, he sent Uncle L... a postcard, and wrote one line, "I think I had the better deal after all".
Clearing out the cupboards in my parents' house I discovered a box full of letters, postcards and newspaper cuttings. They were all of the war years. Grandpa grinning in his uniform, in front of the Pyramids, reading a newspaper in the Dead Sea, with his brother. On the back of all the photographs were witty, warm comments. His letters home to his family and Grandma were reassuring, comforting, humourous and full of hope.
A few years ago there was a film about "The battle of Stalingrad", it started on 26th October 1942, Grandpa's 22nd birthday. I rang him up the next day and asked him if he remembered it. "Remember it? - he said - I was close there". He said the Officers had told them to grab anything they could to defend themselves with because if the Russians lost they were the next in line. Grandpa had a hammer, a hammer to defend himself with .
Somehow Grandma and Grandpa thought all their generation's suffering was worth it if it meant P.... wouldn't ever have to go to war.
When the Iraqi war began Grandma said sadly "It's a good job your Dad 's isn't here, this war would have killed him."