Lest we forget: But do we remember?
On Remembrance Day we remember those that sacrificed all that they had and all that they could be for their countries. Mostly the focus is on the First and Second World War but there have been other conflicts on a smaller scale since and doubtless there will be more. And, then of course there are the physical and mental injuries that endure for the survivors.
I don’t come from what one might term a military family. I guess it was just the times they were in. Both my grandfathers served in World War I and served in lesser roles in World War II. My parents worked at an aircraft factory during World War II. My father was an engineer but served in the Home Guard. I’ve served as a reservist as a radio operator and unexpectedly commanded a cadet unit for the Argyll & Sutherland Highlanders.
I’ve always wondered about the others that fought and suffered for their countries during conflicts but ended up on the losing side. There are millions of them too. I’m under no illusions that some of their actions are regarded as questionable at best and downright evil at worst. But should remembrance just be for winners? It’s a thought and not a very comfortable one. Families are bereft, and timelines changed as children just never got born from destroyed generations.
Talking of losing sides. My grandfather on my father’s side, William McInnes, served in World War I in a transport unit and family stories passed down said that he drove the future Edward VIII though I cannot prove it. He survived the Great War unscathed and then for reasons unknown to me apparently volunteered to stay on and ended up serving as part of the Allied Expeditionary Force that supported the Russian, “White,” forces against the, “Red, Communists. It’s not widely known but Canadian troops went too. About 6,000 I believe. Most did not see any action although I understand a Canadian field artillery unit was involved in fierce fighting in Siberia. Overall, this was not a winning campaign for the Allies and seems to take a back seat in the grand scheme of things.
It was during the Russian campaign that my Grandfather was nerve gassed, which although he survived, changed him radically for the rest of his life. As a child I recall seeing him continuously shaking in his chair. My other grandfather, Arthur Dimond, served with the Grenadier Guards, including, I think Passchendaele and more. He rarely spoke of it, didn’t want anything to do with his military life in later years and wouldn’t return to Europe despite numerous opportunities with his former regiment. He carried a piece of shrapnel around in is chest to his dying day. I really got the impression that he questioned, really questioned if the war was worth all the death and misery.
I’m going to try to remember them all and hope that we’re not tipped into another conflict anything like the ones that have come before although I fear the risks are greater now than ever.