Friday, 10 September 2010

War Babies

My dad is going to be 82 in December, and my mum 83 this month. No great rarity these days you may say and you'd be right.

People now are living well into their 90s and beyond, often free of serious illness too.

But when you stop to think about it, it's pretty incredible really that people like my parents are still muddling through.

I mean just think about their childhood.They were 11 and twelve respectively in 1939 when war broke out. The year after saw Dunkirk, The Battle of Britain and the first Blitz.

They both lived in Sheffield which was hit pretty badly during the Blitz as it was a large industrial city. Both sets of grandparents decided against evacuation, so as a result my mum and dad lived through the worst of it.

I'm not sure children of today (and indeed adults)could conceive of what it must have been like for them. Their education was interrupted as schools were bombed and they had to have lessons in different houses each day.Sleep was disrupted nightly as the banshee wail of the sirens called them to the shelter, or cellar. Mum says it was awful particularly in winter when you'd just got warm in bed and then had to get up in the freezing cold.

My dad moved house in the Blitz and the day after, his old house was completely flattened. Another time he and his friends were playing in the old bombed out buildings and they pulled a curtain aside in a doorway. Looking back at them was a dead man, eyes open, but with lots of tiny blood vessels patterning his face. He had been killed by the blast.

My mum knew a lady who lived down her street who had lustrous auburn hair. That was how they identified her after an air raid. Her lovely hair was practically all that was left of her.

They never had counselling, they were expected to just get on with it. Counselling didn't exist back then, well not for the likes of my parents anyhow.

Dad gets a bit nervous now when he drives, but he is still able and competent. His car needed to go into the garage the other day, and it was in an area of Bristol which was unfamiliar to him. He followed in his car behind my husband in our car. As I watched him drive away with grim determination on his face, I had to admire him.

When he was a kid there was no space exploration, very little air travel, no Internet in fact no computers, microwaves, TV (well only for a few)and all the things we take for granted now. The roads were also much emptier and less complicated to negotiate.

The impact of war on his formative years and on thousands like him, coupled with the rapid expansion of technology and the speed of life now makes my experience pretty tame. In comparison to the lives of the war babies, mine has been a charmed existence.

Of course I realise I have seen great changes too and that everything is relative. When and if I get to be an octogenarian things will have raced on again.

One thing that will mark my old age out from my dad's is I had a much better start. When I was 11 I didn't go to bed wondering if I'd wake up the next day, or live in fear of a Nazi invasion. I think that sometimes people just forget just how horrific it must have been living through it all.

Unfortunately some old people today are shoved away into underfunded and under staffed hospitals and homes, and seen as useless unproductive members of society.
Well I'd like to take my hat off to the war babies and those who fought too.

I can't begin to know what they went through, and I'm eternally thankful that I never had to know.


  1. And it is so important to talk to these wonderful people and hear their stories. One of my biggest regrets is that I didn't ask my parents enough questions when they were alive. The reflections I've listened to on the radio this week have been fantastic. We should pay attention.

  2. Thanks Yvonne, I collected various stories from them about 6 years ago. They are still in note form somewhere. I need to get round to writing them up. As you say their stores are so important for future generations.