Sunday, 10 November 2013

Fighting for our country: Then and Now

When I was younger I thought of Remembrance Sunday as a time to wear poppies and remember those who defended our country in the 2 World Wars. As I got older I realised British men and women continue to risk their lives to protect and defend the UK and it's allies and we need to remember and celebrate their bravery too.

Royal British Legion Poppy Appeal Poppies


I spoke to 2 people who have seen active duty over 60 years apart. How much has changed? 

My Grandad

Why did you join the army?
I was called up a week after I turned 18 because the war was on.
Have you seen active service? If yes where?
Italy and Austria during the war and Egypt and Palestine post war. Post war the fighting was between the Jews and Arabs and it was in many ways more dangerous as you didn't know what you were going into. 
How long for?
I was in the army for 4 1/2 years and away for all that time except for the first 9 months spent in training.
What did you miss most whilst serving?
It was so different to being at home that you put up with what you got. There were no comforts. Many nights you slept on the bonnet of the armoured truck. Post was received regularly so you had contact (my Nana wrote a lot of letters), but you couldn't telephone or anything like that.
What were the good things about it?
At that age (18 to 22) the variety was good, you were doing things you had never done before and you were suddenly thrown into it without any choice.
How does the work of the army differ today from World War 2?
There is still a risk of death etc if posted abroad. When in barracks there is more drill which we didn't really do even post war, you could always find an excuse to get out of it.
How important is the work of the Royal British Legion?
It is very good if you need it and you are prepared to ask for it and have a necessity for it. They do good work and have some wonderful homes for old soldiers.

My Friend

Why did you join the army?
I joined the Army, for several reasons. Right from the start I wanted to be part of something bigger than myself, where I could help make a real difference to people.   I valued the opportunity to be part of a highly-effective and organised team entity, with the chance to make close friends and develop as a team player and as a leader.  I also wanted the chance to learn new skills, and see new places that I wouldn’t otherwise have had the chance to do in my life.
Have you seen active service?  If yes where?    
I served in the Iraq War in 2006-07, for nearly 6 months, spending time in Basra and Baghdad.
What did you miss most whilst serving?
Operational conditions meant that many things or routines I was used to in normal life, and considered to be every day necessities or perhaps hadn’t even thought until I didn’t have them, were simply not available.
What were the good things about it?
I went out to do my part and serve in an operational environment, and that is what I did.  I have pride in doing my part as well as I could, and being an integral part of the team was always the best part for me.
How does the work of the army differ today to World War 2?
I have met Old Comrades from my Squadron who served in WW2 and landed on the D-Day beaches, or fought in other places to free Europe.  The work then and now is primarily the same, in the sense that soldiers still do the same fundamental job.  The way this is done is different in some ways in a different age, and some threats cannot be best met in the same ways.  Peacekeeping and asymmetric warfare have their own challenges, and the Army operates closely with other services and allies and multinational entities.
How important is the work of the Royal British Legion?
The Royal British Legion is an excellent charity doing amazing direct work to support beneficiaries, but also operates in ways that not all charities can, such as with regards activities like comradeship and remembrance.  The Legion is not in itself the source of these good works, but is the custodian and facilitator of much of it, and helps ensure that the whole family of service and veteran charities can operate in a favourable environment. The Legion isn’t the only service charity, but all would be much weaker and find their jobs much harder to do without the Legion being around.

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