Monday, 11 November 2013
"Down the close, darkening lanes they sang their way
To the siding-shed,
And lined the train with faces grimly gay.
Their breasts were stuck all white with wreath and spray
As men's are, dead.
Dull porters watched them, and a casual tramp
Stood staring hard,
Sorry to miss them from the upland camp.
Then, unmoved, signals nodded, and a lamp
Winked to the guard.
So secretly, like wrongs hushed-up, they went.
They were not ours:
We never heard to which front these were sent.
Nor there if they yet mock what women meant
Who gave them flowers.
Shall they return to beatings of great bells
In wild train-loads?
A few, a few, too few for drums and yells,
May creep back, silent, to still village wells
Up half-known roads.
Wilfred Own 1893-1918
My father escaped from Poland at the outset of the Second World War. My grandmother, and my father's three sisters escaped to Vienna.
My grandfather was sent to Dachau.
My Dad got himself to France where he joined the Air Force, and was promptly posted to England. He was 18.
He flew in Lancaster and Wellington Bombers, and his claim to fame is that he also flew in the Battle of Britain in the Polish Squadron.
I have his medals in a box, ready to pass on to the next generation. But he never talked about the war very much. He lost too many friends who were shot down; and too many family members, who were simply "shot".
My most precious keepsake is his "dog tag".
So this is my tribute to him, and also to Dan's father who ran away and lied about his age in order to join the Navy.
It's also my tribute to all who have served, or are still serving their country, either here or in far flung corners of the world - for me, for us, to be able to live in peace. They are all heroes. You are all heroes.