It’s on occasions like this where countries stand still and pay their respects. War is not something to be celebrated, nor is it something that should be boasted about. It is something whose lessons need to be learned unless we risk repeating the destruction that it can bring.
I remember as a small child sitting with my Grandfather as he talked of his wartime experiences in India and Burma. Like many who served in the Far East, he struggled to explain the why’s and wherefore’s of it all and had kept quiet for years. He hadn’t talked to a soul about it for decades, so why did he open his memories to me? I can’t remember when it first started, but I must have only been five or six years old. I distinctly remember what he told me and how he described the pain he went through, not just during the fighting, but until the day he died. He had caught Malaria in Burma and it never left him. I remember him shivering with cold before a roaring fire in the middle of the hot summer of 1976. He was a quiet, hardworking man who toiled ceaselessly for his family and his country, had little money, but was proud and upstanding.
Occasionally something will remind me of him, particularly the warmth of a coal fire or the distinct smell of Woodbine cigarettes. I miss him dearly, but remember what he told me as during those long hours together I learned about many of the values I adhere to today.
He inspired me to visit the jungles of Burma in 1995 – 50 years after the Second World War ended, and during my worldwide travels have taken time to visit war graves in Scandinavia, Africa and SE Asia.
Why am I telling you all this? It’s very simple. It’s the values that we learn and adhere to as children that run with us all our lives. When we are young we soak up information at an incredible rate. We can learn quickly and are very easy to guide (particularly when you look up to the person who is guiding you). These values shape the way we live, treat others, work and play.
Francis Ryde, a Belper born man from 13th Battalion Sherwood Foresters taught me about morality, honesty, compassion, courtesy, humility, loyalty, family… The list goes on.
This Remembrance Sunday I stood on the border of Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire and took a moment to remember him. Do you have someone who made a huge impact to your childhood? If so, take a moment today and remember them…