The news about our troops in Afghanistan recently brought back memories of relatives who had seen war and came back changed.Changed utterly.(Thanks WBY.)
My father, grandfather and great grandfather were all sailors, my father joining during the war as a boy seaman.
He trained at HMS Ganges and was a button boy.His head for heights wasn't hereditary, believe me!
He later served in HMS Victorious in the Far East Squadron, I remember seeing a photograph of him and a shipmate standing in the desolate ruin that was Hiroshima.
He died of stomach cancer in 1964, still in his thirties.
My stepfather was a short stocky man with bandy legs, like so many others who had grown up in Clydeside during the thirties.He joined the Royal Scots Fusiliers as soon as he could which may have saved his life, for he lost thirteen members of his family in the Clydebank blitz in 1941.
His battalion was in the 52nd Lowland Division, which with a degree of irony was designated a Mountain Division. He learned to ski and drive a Bren gun carrier.I still have his operating manual.
The division trained long and hard for an invasion of Norway, so there was no suprise when it was sent to Holland in 1944.
Now, some fifteen years after he had died, I got talking to an old gent in Stockbridge library.
He was wearing a deerstalker, so we started a wee chat about shooting which turned into a conversation about his military service. He had been in the RSF in Holland, and he told me about one time that his platoon had came under fire from a sniper.
"Awbody jumped intae the ditch except fur the Bren gunner, wha returned fire."
He was looking into the far distance.
"The sniper hit the magazine o' the Bren and that's whit saved his life, he just took a dunt oan the heid wi' the magazine."
My stepfather, a Bren gunner, had had a silver plate in the right hand side of his head...