Last year I had the opportunity to contribute a short story for an anthology which would go on sale in celebration of the 75th anniversary of VE-Day. I jumped at the chance. I’ve contributed towards various anthologies in the past but this one was and is special.
The Anthology is called, VICTORY 75 in celebration of the 75th anniversary of VE-Day: 8th May 2020. It is available on Amazon (Toad Publishing/Electric Eclectic).
My contribution is called, ‘We’ll Meet Again.’ My story is obviously set in WW2.
I was asked to contribute a blog post about the service my family has given to Crown and Country over many decades, and centuries, so forgive me if my post does not just touch upon WW2 and VE-Day. The consequences of going to war reverberates down through the generations. Even today.
My family has served in the British armed forces for generations, mostly in the Army but not exclusively, and we have long connections with various regiments, and with the Royal Military Academy (RMA) at Sandhurst.
My maternal Grandfather served at the RMA, my father was an Instructor there, so was an uncle, and a cousin and his two sons have passed out as Officers, during the latter part of the 20th century, and their cousin has also passed out during the mid-21st century. They all went on to serve in the various conflicts we all know about and many of which are still on-going, sadly.
Indeed, one of my cousin’s sons who served in Afghanistan in recent years was awarded the MBE for bravery, leading his men out of an ambush through enemy territory under fire. He has progressed in the army and became Commander of the Queen’s Own Gurkha Logistics Regiment in Aldershot, later becoming Colonel of the Queen’s Own Gurkha Logistics Regiment.
My maternal Grandfather served in WW1 and was in France. He was gassed more than once and discharged eventually with ‘influenza,’ which I soon realised when researching family history, is a euphemism for being gassed. He suffered all his life from what was called, ‘spongy lung,’ and he eventually died from being gassed, in 1955.
He didn’t get any help, either mentally, physically, or financially, and therefore when he was laid off work at the RMA every winter for three months, he and his family struggled to survive on money they put aside every month in a small insurance policy which paid a pittance per week when he was unable to work, fighting for every breath.
My Grandmother’s first husband served in WW1 and various other conflicts including in Afghanistan, South Africa, and India. He was wounded at the Somme and discharged with shrapnel injuries which eventually led to his death in 1923. Again, he did not receive any financial or psychological help. He served with the 2nd Sherwood Foresters.
He and my Grandmother served in the RFC (Royal Flying Corps/RAF) after his discharge from the British Army, even though wounded.
In 1916 one of my Grandmother’s brothers was giving his life at The Somme whilst another brother was arrested and incarcerated in HM Prison Wakefield, for his part in the Easter Uprising.
My great uncle is buried in France. He was with the 1st Battalion Irish Guards.
I often think of this and wonder what conversation around the dinner table must have been like for the others left behind in a small village in Tipperary.
My great uncle who was imprisoned in Wakefield later went on to become a Sergeant in the Garda Siochána in Dublin, despite his prison sentence for being part of the Easter Uprisings.
Of course, every household in the British Isles and beyond experienced their loved ones being sent off to war and they had to deal with the consequences if/when these men and women returned possibly (probably) injured, both mentally and physically.
The photo above is of my Great Uncle George in his Duke of York School uniform before he went into WW1 aged 14 Photos (c) Jane Risdon 2021.
My paternal Grandfather and his brothers went off to WW1, having lied about their ages so they could join up. All three had been through the Duke of York School in Kent which was a boarding school for children of soldiers who were orphaned or whose family couldn’t afford to keep them. The three brothers who went off to war together in WW1 posed for a photo before leaving. Happily, they all survived the war.
I know my Grandfather was 14 when he was in the trenches in France I have seen his army records. He served in France and was later posted to India (early 1920s) where he was part of the British Indian Army. He was sent to Africa in WW2 with his men – mostly Indian Sikhs – to fight Rommel. Later he returned to see India gain independence in 1947 when he and his family returned to England, except my own Father, who had joined the British Army in India (IEME – Indian Electrical and Mechanical Engineers) and was posted to Africa, and various other conflicts before being sent to the RMA (Royal Military Academy) Sandhurst as an Instructor to the Officer Cadets.
The photo above is of my paternal grandfather later in his career when he was an acting Lt. Colonel. He retired as a Major having left India after Partition in 1947. Photos © Jane Risdon 2020.
In 1952 my father was sent to Korea and took part in the Korean war – I was just a baby and apart from his seeing me aged 3 months, we never set eyes on each other again until he was posted to Singapore and Malaya (Malaysia) to rout bandits raiding rubber plantations in Johore Bahru – where my Mother and I joined him in 1954.
We lived in many countries whilst he was still serving, including Germany and England.
One of my brothers became a ‘boy’ soldier and eventually joined the same regiment as my father (REME) and served in Bosnia, Ireland, and elsewhere. His son joined the RAF and was Awarded a Commendation in the Queen’s Birthday Honours a couple of years ago. He has served in The Falkland Islands, and in Afghanistan.
A paternal Great Uncle served on submarines in WW2: one he was on sunk. He returned home a shadow of his former self following his experiences trapped inside for a long time. He was a talented artist and had hoped before the war to study in Paris. Sadly, he suffered the rest of his life with mental illness, and he didn’t get the help our Forces hope to get today. He used to book himself voluntarily into a local psychiatric hospital whenever he felt himself losing control and he’d stay there until he felt well enough to leave. He was not violent, just someone who’d become agitated and withdrawn, tormented by what he’d seen and experienced.
I could go on listing relatives who served over many years, going back to the very first Army/Navy we had as a country, but I am sure every family can do this.
Our family detests war, but many have heeded the call to arms when necessary and have fought proudly and bravely for Crown and country. Including one of my stories in Victory 75 has been an honour.
Jane Risdon © 2021
All photos © Jane Risdon 2021 All Rights Reserved.
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