My father and my uncle and others I remember were in the RAF during the Second World War.
This weekend, as we remember the end of World War One, I think of my two grandfathers
Frank Roff and Fred Smith.
Both, fortunately, returned home (because if they hadn't I wouldn't be here) but both refused to talk about it to anyone, especially their garrulous granddaughter who wanted to know everything. The title of this post, "You wouldn't want to know," was what my paternal grandfather said to me when I asked him. That was it. He lit another cigarette and I never learned any more than that.
My mother's father used to like to chat about inconsequential things although, very deaf, he would make a big show of switching off the hearing aid, which he always carried in the top pocket of his jacket, when he was asked things he didn't want to hear. He spent much of his day when I knew him reading back copies of The Leicester Mercury in his kitchen. He never came to join the rest of the family who always congregated in either the dining room or front room to natter and drink tea. He always ate and drank in the kitchen alone.
That hearing aid is significant. In the conflict, he was a gunner. He operated one of those massive guns. On one particular occasion, he either didn't retreat far enough or it exploded too early. Whatever it was, he told me he was totally sone deaf for a whole day afterwards. His hearing was never the same after that.
What physical reminders did my grandfathers pass onto younger generations? Fred sold his medals for far too little to a passing shyster in the 1970s who came to his door when my formidable grandmother was out shopping, much to her anger. My mother may have Frank's medals which I think my father kept until he died and she may still have them somewhere. I must ask her but her own memory is fading.
I could show copies of photos here if I was able to transfer them digitally as they're all kept in my Mum's precious family album in her bookcase. So no can do but then again, I am not someone who spreads my family over the internet.
It may be that inherited family quiet shyness that has prevented me from checking the records as to their regiments or even in which battles they were present. I may start to search but I am always held back by these words:
You wouldn't want to know
But we can imagine and ponder man's inhumanity to man.