...Red Shoes....'They made me feel better.' My mum, an evacuee, aged 6
We stood together in the shadow of Westminster Abbey. Small wooden crosses, thousands of them, had emerged from the ground, like flowers after an overnight desert storm. The old man was jangling loose change in his pocket. His feelings expressed through this agitation. 'I lost my friends there. I lost them.' That was all he said. He pulled his hand out of his pocket, and medals jangled. He was trying not to cry. I gave him my hand. He clasped it. He then withdrew his, turned and was gone.
A Biscuit from a Soldier.
Small touches mean big things to many of us. My grandmother and mother were evacuated from the Channel Islands in advance of the expected German occupation. She was six. In her more lucid days, she says she cannot remember being frightened; except in an air raid once they both got to London. They went into an underground station to stay safe. The one thing she does remember is refusing a biscuit offered to her by a soldier. She has regretted that ever since.
They both wore labels around their necks, and country families came to pick those they thought they could help. The good and bad tales of this choice are well documented; both of them did not stay long in their Welsh temporary home. They eventually moved in with her mother's sister, and that's when she got her red shoes. She wore them on a daily basis to the chip shop. The shoes, together with this aunt who made her laugh, were her abiding wartime memories.
Hull Air Raids
My father was ten when World War Two started. As the bombs fell on Hull, he remembers his mother hurrying the family downstairs to the cellar. He couldn't really work out why she was crying, as it all seemed exciting rather than frightening. He knew though, that other children got upset, because their fathers had been killed overseas. After a raid, he and his brother, would cautiously go out into the street to see if a house had been hit. If it had, they both stood and looked until they were told to 'come indoors.'
Am I a Hero?
Two children, two different wartime experiences. Sentimentality has no place amongst the ruins of conflict. Minds and emotions were damaged, as they are today, as well as houses and cities. 'Hero'; doesn't seem to be a status that many soldiers I have spoken to, welcome. One said to me 'I was only doing my job, I don't want all this attention. What will they remember in 6 months time?'
Now, It seems we are in the realm of computer game conflict. Flick a switch and a whole region is ruined. Soldiers do what governments tell them to do. Then, if they come home alive, they grieve, remember and if they're lucky, are rehabilitated back into the world they left. I do not know what happened to my mother's red shoes.