..and in the morning we will remember them.
I am of an age when I can still connect directly to both the two world wars. I was born only eight years after the end of World War II and my early life was sometimes touched by its long aftermath. From bomb sites in central Manchester to pill boxes and barbed wire on Cornish beaches, from Anderson shelters still standing in back yards to leftover gasmasks and ration books, but the memories that live longest are the human ones.
I can still remember delivering papers during the sixties to a house in Lower Crumpsall where a man slept in his living room , immobilised for over forty years and reputedly suffering from shell shock suffered in the trenches. At the end of the same street, a crippled veteran sat on dry days outside in his wheelchair in view of the park where we played. Some lines from Wilfred Owen’s poem Disabled are brought to life by this memory:
He sat in a wheeled chair, waiting for dark,
And shivered in his ghastly suit of grey,
Legless, sewn short at elbow. Through the park
Voices of boys rang saddening like a hymn,
Voices of play and pleasure after day,
Till gathering sleep had mothered them from him.
Those November Sundays in the Fifties and The Sixties when so many had lost sons, brothers, fathers and uncles in the two great conflicts. Owen’s Anthem for Doomed Youth:
What candles may be held to speed them all?
Not in the hands of boys, but in their eyes
Shall shine the holy glimmers of goodbyes.
The pallor of girls’ brows shall be their pall;
Their flowers the tenderness of patient minds,
And each slow dusk a drawing down of blinds.
So another poignant eleventh day of the eleventh month passes and thankfully we still do remember and honour those that gave, and continue to give, so that we can sleep soundly in our beds.