I come from Middlesbrough, an industrial town on the Tees in the north east of England. All along the river is chemical plants, so many it’s amazing that the whole town hasn’t been blown to pieces long before now. During WWII German bombing missions were frequent and they used to fly the length of the river which was just a stone’s throw from where we were all born.
My mum was a small child during WWII with a much older brother overseas somewhere doing his best at an age where he should have been at home getting under his mother’s feet, teasing his baby sister and generally being 20.
My mum went missing one night during an air raid and my gran, along with some of the other women, went out to find her. I’m sure my granddad would have went to look also had he not been on decoy duty most nights.
After a long search the women found my mum on a bridge waving to the German pilots as they flew over to find their targets and drop their bombs. My gran reacted with that mixture of shouts and crying that erupts when you think you’ve lost a child and then find them again. As she was hugging my mum a German plan was shot down.
People had heard of these things happening but few saw them and the small group of women gave a cheer with the exception of my gran who cried. I never knew my gran to cry about anything, she was tougher than Teesside steel and twice as hard. One of the women turned on her and accused her of being an enemy sympathiser. My gran replied simply that she’d just found a child she thought she’d lost but somewhere there was a mother who had no idea that her boy was never going to go home again.
Remembrance Day is not about flooding our Twitter and Facebook timelines with pictures of poppies it’s about all the people who lived, and still do live, through war so we can sit at home moaning that our iPhones don’t have a long enough battery life or we don’t have chocolate in the cupboard.
Ask any military mum today how she would feel in similar circumstances to those my gran faced and they would pretty much all say the same.
Remembrance Day is for those men and women courageous enough to die so we can whine about our petty little problems and for those mothers who are courageous enough to let their children serve in spite of the fact they may never return.