(Planet Me)
Thursday, July 05, 2007
One Of The Few

"How do you know this stuff?" E asks me. As a child of the Eighties, I was brought up surrounded by war. We lived in the shadow of the bomb. Our parents were War Babies. Our grandparents had fought in the wars. One of my grandfathers was in the trenches. The other spent World War Two in the desert having tanks thrown at him by Nazi's.

It's strange, walking around the Battle Of Britain Museum as an adult, and knowing that everything here comes from - not an abstract idea of a bygone time - but from very recent history, and the people who fought in the second world war are still alive and pensioners now. My grandfather had paintings of Lancaster bombers curving over the British Sunset on his wall, alongside a framed black and white photograph of him, standing alongside around 150 comrades under the wing of a plane in an African desert. It seems such an alien time now. In many ways, I am glad that X is growing up in a more innocent age : not a time where we all cower and run to the Anderson Shelter at the sound of the siren.

As we walked around the various rooms of the museum, I called out the planes by memory. I grew up reading books of these wars, immersed myself in the world of the trenches and military strategy, learned the model numbers of the mE-242, the Me-262, the JU-87. I saw several Spitfires. A V-1. Three ME 109's. I don't know how I know this stuff : I just do.

"That's an ME-109", I say.

And it seems so philosophically unusual, so alien, to live in a time where the threat of invasion seemed real. It's a bit of a surprise to me, come to think of it, than there are so many museums here. The Battle Of Britain was mostly fought in the south : the smallest distance between Dover and Calais was enough for the war to be brought here and most of it seemed to happen in the south.

The school we may be taking X to when he gets of the right age was destroyed by a V-1 in 1944. My Grandmother had an Anderson Shelter. Families would sit in them, hearing explosions. Not knowing if the next time they were going to see their home it would be made of rubble and dust.

My grandfather still had his war helmet. It hung in his shed. It felt like I had walked into the Pink Floyd film.

And then, our country lived in the threat of being invaded, where the skittering noise as the fuel ran out and the silence... and then the explosion. It seems a lifetime away, but it was real, and our grandparents fought in those days.

And has mankind learnt anything? Has anything changed? There's still wars going on all across the world. One day, maybe, there will be no war. Until then, we can dream.

there's no such thing as the me-242, and the me-109 is really the bf-109, duh
Is one of the things about being a bloke Mark - knowing that it's a BF 109, rather than a ME 109, eh?
I'm sad to say that I don't think there will ever be a day when there will be no war anymore (and yes, I know I work for a Peace organization :S )
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