Lest we for­get: But do we re­mem­ber?

The McLeod River Post - - Viewpoint - Ian McInnes

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.

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