Thursday, 6 November 2008

Remember Remember

Remembrance Day and Fireworks night are always linked in my mind. Not just because they occur at the same time of year.

We didn't have fireworks at home because they brought back memories of my mum's East End childhood in the Blitz.
Even now she still has the same flashbacks.

With good reason; her house was twice damaged by incendiary bombs. Her dad was in the River Police out on duty in the docks during the air raids and her uncle was a firefighter. At the same time the family waited for news of other uncles - one at sea on the Atlantic convoys and the other in the army in the Far East.

Now days we would call it post-traumatic stress and demand counseling - back then it was just a fact of life. So she remembers just the little things; like taking shelter under her school desk during one raid, being sent home for forgetting her gas mask and taking her exams in a shelter.

Evidence of quite how close the war came to home is still all around us: At work there is a gap in the terrace opposite still propped up by wooden supports sixty years after a bomb took out the building. At home, in the park at the end of our street, there is a memorial to 20 people killed in a single direct hit on an air raid shelter.

In the winter of 1940-41 there were eleven continuous weeks of nightly attacks on London by the Luftwaffe - 20,000 civilians in London were killed in those attacks alone and 60,000 in the whole of the war. A quarter of a million Londoners were made homeless and a third of all the city's housing stock was damaged. That's worth a moments reflection at this time of year.

It also makes you wonder who ever thought it would be a good idea to call our local American football team "London Blitz".

No comments: