A blog post I was just reading of which I stumbled upon because he was actually my first follower (thank you) since I started blogging a week ago got me thinking and reminiscing about my late Father. The post in question was about the total number of American war dead since it’s first battle. I am an avid conflict historian and grew up on weekly chats my Father and Uncles would have in earnest about the second World War. My uncle would tell tales of the heroics of the Americans and listen about the great battles that were fought without truly understanding the nitty-gritty, I was only about 9 after all. On the other hand My Father would counterbalance the argument with the British side of the story telling how brave this little nation was and how enamoured in general he was about the achievements of this small island nation.
Now many would think what would an honest Irishman be doing talking about the English in glowing terms. They had been despised for centuries on these shores and there is still a great deal of simmering hatred. And the reason was this. Besides from the well known fact that up to 50,000 Irish men took up arms in support of Britain in the great war and dedicated their lives in doing so, many young Irishmen in the 60s looking for work, adventure a chance to see what’s past this island’s shores decided to join the British army and in particular the Irish guards. My Father always kept this great big chest under his bed and to a young boy my imagination was in overdrive. Finally one day he opened it and what a treasure it was. It contained photos of him standing to attention at Salisbury barracks. There were close up personal photos of him in his faultless, proud, shiny and immaculate uniform. My dad was a soldier! I was purring with pride. He then showed me his medals he won, nothing too grand but as grand as can be to him I’m sure. He showed me his shrapnel wounds were he was hit while on tail end charley. But the greatest of them all were some photos of him and his squadron crawling through the vegetation (probably staged but do I care?) fully equipped with big machine gun and belts of high calibre bullets slung over shoulder complete with camouflage face paint looking like something from a Rambo movie. These memories I cherished dearly and it was then I realised why my Father had nothing but glowing words for the British, their empire, their inventions, their sports that they gave the world, especially football, their industrial heritage and it rubbed off on me. I have nothing but admiration for what an island of such small proportions was able to give to this modern world we live in, mostly the industrial revolution. And so it was 6 years ago as my Father was terminally ill in hospital. I ached in the knowledge we would lose him sooner rather than later. I looked on at him in his weakness and drug induced condition that made no sense when he tried to converse which was harrowing and I thought of that man I seen in the jungle in Borneo with the machine gun and bullets wrapped around him and thought how very very proud I was that this ill, weak man was once a man of such courage and spirit was leaving this world for good. I held his poor hand and prayed that he’d reach heaven safely. Now those memories that were contained in the big case of surprise and suspense are remembered and cherished now more than ever before.