Warriors

Robert Laurence Bager (1918- 2003).

Grace Evelyn Tizard (1921-2019).

My parents fought in the Second World War, my father in the Royal Artillery with the British Expeditionary Force at Dunkerque, and the Eighth Army under ‘Monty‘ in North Africa and Italy, my mother in the ATS (the Auxiliary Territorial Service) in England and Wales, calibrating guns and helping to test radar technology.  For both of them it was a socially liberating experience, my father being promoted to the ‘officer class’ at Alamein, my mother, along with millions of other women, finally allowed to do something useful in a man’s world.

I am proud of them both.

Bob

 

I don’t doubt that my brother and I brought our parents joy and satisfaction in their post-war years. We were their highest priority, but nothing, I think, could compare in intensity and influence to the years between 1939 and 1945.

The War marked them in different ways. My father saw terrible things on the front line but rarely spoke of it, though, by character and bearing, he remained a military man to the end of his life. My mother, by contrast, spoke of the War nostalgically, especially in the company of my godmother Anne, with whom she served. ‘Comrades in arms’, cantankerous friends for seventy years, for Anne and Tizzy (my mother’s abbreviated maiden name), the War was a time of levity and joy, as well as seriousness and sadness (my mother spoke of a Polish airman lost over continental Europe).

B_06

Jonathan and I were conscious of the War from our earliest years. It was the background to everything. The schoolmasters who taught us at our prep schools were often former military men, uncomfortable, like my father, in civvy street. Diminished by demobilisation, they’d been robbed of purpose. Commander Varley’s history lessons would conclude with a noisy re-enactment of the Japanese fighter planes that divebombed his convoy in the South China seas. His grasp of the more distant past was slender. In the playground we played at Spitfires and Messerschmitts. The films we watched, including my favourite, The Sound of Music, took the War as their starting points, and television was saturated with series such as Tenko, ‘Allo ‘Allo, Colditz, and Dad’s Army (my mother’s favourite), all harking back to that finest hour.

My generation is rooted in our parents’ experience of the War. It formed them, and, by extension, it formed us too. Our lives were made safer and more comfortable by the sacrifices they and their generation made. We have never known real danger or want (even at boarding school in the 1960s). Political misjudgement in the 1930s made the inevitable worse, but it was a war that had to be fought. We must be grateful to them.

5 thoughts on “Warriors

  1. Adam, I am trying to ‘like’ this but it seems complicated to use WordPress.. More importantly, this was a valuable post. As you suggest, the war was a defining time for our parents and, for many, peacetime was something of an anticlimax, albeit a welcome one.
    My old school has just sent a video with all the names of its ‘fallen’ which was very touching. A number of names were those shared by school mates, though I didn’t know it at the time. One fallen was in the SOE and had for months been carrying out feats of sabotage in France before being tortured by the Gestapo and thought to have ended up in Buchenwald. All a far cry from a Kent cricket pitch.. yet one of many.
    Odd that you should have mentioned a Polish airmen. I will share a story of another when we next meet. Too secret to be committed to paper.
    As they say these days (well I usually don’t..) thanks for sharing.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Grateful…absolutely.! My own Anerican generation, somewhat older than yours also grew up with the lingering presence of the war around us. Everyone of us had someone who had fought or served in a dedicated way and it formed us in so many ways.
    Thank you for remembering your parents and their war today.

    Liked by 1 person

    • It is worth remembering that without the US in those days, victory was far from certain, even unlikely. So Europe needs to remember its debt to the US.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Yes, it’s so true. I was always terrified that Germans were coming up the stairs or would be found under the bed. Every Saturday afternoon the film on TV was a World War Two action movie. Deborah Orr in her memoir Motherwell writes very well about the mentality of the War generation. Although there was liberation and opportunity there was suffering and fear as well. The story of my grandparents being turfed out of their comfortable house in Plymouth (requisitioned by the military) and living in a series of rented flats all over the country for the next seven years, all their possessions in storage and those that were left in the house never seen again is a myth in our family to this day. I’m sure the whole experience shortened both my grandparents’ lives who had seen the 1st World War as well. Remembering Grace and Bobs and Anne and Digger

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s