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Can't say I've ever thought of myself as cast in the role of an "old soldier"... old, maybe, but soldier? Never! I marvel at these folk who appear to have settled for making a career out of the few years spent in the forces, and enjoy themselves forever dressing-up and parading round displaying their medals, bemoaning the conduct of the younger generation.
I deny everything. Like so many of my contemporaries, I was reluctant to get dragged in, overjoyed to get out, and then just buried the memories while I tried to catch up with my life. It wasn't until I retired and started rereading letters that had survived from wartime, that I finally felt an urge to write about the experience... I admit to surprise at the vividness of some of the memories those letters revived.
Feel little involvement with Remembrance Days and Cenotaph parades - they just happen on the telly, and all the fine sentiments about sacrifice and wars to end war, sound empty and hollow in the face of all the misery caused by the conflicts that continue to rage over this planet.
I married Marion in the early days of the war and we endured five years of separation. My main memory of my return (a whole year after the war officially ended!) was arriving in Manchester, decked out in my demob suit, and joining a bus queue outside the station. Still had my tan from the sunshine of SEAsia, but was shattered to hear someone behind me whingeing on to the effect that "some buggers seem to manage to get away on holiday". That comment stuck in my mind, to offset all the token talk of "a grateful nation".
Wow! I'd better stop before I sound too bitter & twisted! ■
Letter to Kevin Ring of Satori Books/Beat Scene, November 1999
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