The disappearing generation

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I heard the news that the last of my uncles and aunts had passed away. He lived until his eighties and had lived a good life, writing historical books and traveling around the world. However his death reinforced the fact that his generation are fast disappearing. They were quite a remarkable generation, their lives tainted by the second world war. When I think of my uncles I can’t help but admire their bravery and courage. Another of my uncles was in a parachute battalion, during the war, some of his antics are legendary…however it was something I picked up on in his obituary, that stuck in my mind. Once he rescued four people whose cabin cruiser had been upturned; despite a slipped disc, he dived under the boat in an unsuccessful attempt to reach a fifth. Afterwards he lit cigarettes and handed them round to those he had saved. Would people of more recent generations show such bravery…maybe, there was a Matthew James, 30, from Cardiff, who shielded his fiancé from bullets being fired by terrorists in the recent Tunisian terrorist attack. Another of my uncles served on a minesweeper, I suppose this must have been incredibly perilous, but he was quoted as saying “that the best thing about serving on a minesweeper was that he never had to kill anyone.” This quote says a lot about the man…witty, charming and a man with a heart. These days on the news we see stories of the cowardly way people go about killing often innocent people. Setting off a bomb with a mobile phone. You can “eliminate” somebody from the comfort of your office, in front of computer screen by sending a drone. Then we see those cowards of ISIS, killing often innocent defenseless people in cold blood, while hiding their faces. Compare these gutless “people” to the genuine brave people of this disappearing generation. Maybe I don’t hold with some of the values people of my uncle’s generation had, but I do admire their fortitude. They must have been barely out of school, or university when they shunted off to fight a war against Hitler’s Germany. My father had just finished University when the war began. He was a prisoner of for most of the duration of the war. Imagine being in a situation in which you never knew if each day would be your last. I don’t suppose he was in the worse situation, as some prisoners of war…but still his memories of the war must have always played on his mind. Later on he used to have contact with German people who must have asked him… “is this your first time in Germany”? He must have had to explain he had been incarcerated for some years in Germany…he was such an honest man, he wouldn’t have been capable of not telling the truth. It would also be scandalous not to mention the incredible women of this disappearing generation. One of my aunts died a few years ago. She reached a hundred years old…her life could not have been easy, her first husband was killed right at the end of the second world war…a month before it ended, a real cruel twist of fate. She was left to bring up two children and spent a long period of her life a war widow. Her strong spirit was evident to the last. I was lucky enough to take my young son to meet her, watching a one year old and a hundred year old, delight in each other’s presence was a magical moment. She so enjoyed holding my young son, she was reluctant to let him go. My own mother is a few years past the milestone of being ninety. Her life is very restricted, due to her ailing physical condition, but her strong spirit is still very present. Sadly many of her friends and relatives have passed away. Her full set of brothers and sisters have all gone, with my uncles recent passing, but she remains steadfast. She was a smoker for the majority of her life, but had the will power to quit…well a rather unpleasant stay in hospital, may have swayed her. She still staunchly fights for her independence. She maybe comes from a lone of strong willed women, my grandmother was also of this ilk. My grandparents had to endure two world wars. I wonder if this generation are not only diminishing, but also more besides…this great spirit of fortitude they had is diminishing with them…

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