Tuesday, 11 November 2014

Armistice Day

Whatever Happened To The Post-War Dream?

Although my interests are fairly broad and I'm something of a politics nerd, I've made a conscious decision to use this Blog not as a generic one but purely for nerdy business.  On previous blogs I've posted long politic rambles, analysis of current events, questions about likely future happenings.... this one I've wanted to just keep as a painting & playing log.

However, it's hard to dodge the topic of today's date so for just once I'm going to make an exception.

Today is Armistice Day, the 11th of November and the 96th anniversary of the end of the First World War.  If you are from a Commonwealth country you likely had the traditional Two Minute's Silence today held around you, and some other nations involved in the Great War practice similar traditions.  You will not have been able to move for people wearing poppies, the traditional symbol of this day of remembrance.  (Though they may not all have been red.)

Now most western nations have odd relationships with their military in the modern era and of course remembrance day includes talk about Iraq and Afghanistan which can easilly descent into very long arguments Scotland's relationship with this event is.... more complicated, though  Glasgow in particular had a large Irish immigrant population historically and the differing sides of Ireland and Scotland's sectarian divide see the British Army and therefore the Poppy in very different ways.  For some people, the shadow of the British Army in Ireland stretches long.

 For myself, though, there's a long family history with the military.  My father, for one, served in the British Army in the late fifties/early sixties.  A young Catholic from Glasgow who liked caring for animals, he was hardly stereotypical sign up material - but for five years he trapsed around Kenya and Germany as part of the Gordon Highlanders, a principally Aberdeen-based regiment.  Growing up soldiers weren't supermen or monsters - they were just regular guys, Dads who went on to do other things but once upon a time had held guns.  I mean, my Dad watched Star Trek with me growing up and helped me paint my first Warhammer figures - Rambo he ain't.

The Gordon Highlanders merged with other regiments and is now represented by The Highlanders, a batallion within the Royal Regiment of Scotland.
 He was not the only one of the clan to go into the army, though.  His older brother Archie was a member of an artillery regiment and his father, a boxer and PE teacher imaginatively called Archie, trained Free Polish soldier in unarmed combat to help them slap the Nazis about.

That kid at the bottom of the picture?  Give him a couple of decades and he's going to give the Nazis a knuckle sandwich by proxy
My great -grandfather - the older gentleman in that picture and yes, before you ask, also called Archie - also served in the British Army.  The story goes that he ran away three times to join the army.  The first two times his mother persuaded his father to buy him out the army, but the third time they took the hint.

The levy on the left, apparently, really liked Great Grandad Archie and wanted to come back to Scotland, which Archie had to say no to because 1900s Glasgow was not exactly the most cosmopolitan place for a non-white-chap.
This story even goes down by other side of the family - my grandmother was part of the large family of Thomas Maley, himself a son of a soldier and one of the founders of a major Glasgow football club.  One of his sons perished in the great war, not even 21 - my grandmother Elizabeth apparently never really got over it and even in her twilight years would speak of him often.

Mentioning this man as being my great grandfather can be.... a gamble in Glasgow.
World War II sees not my British but my Italian family fighting the Nazis.  Although I have Italian ancestry they had been born here since at least the 20s and so they were called up to fight Hitler, putting up signs on their shops to tell people to please stop telling them they were fascists because their sons were actually off shooting fascists, kthanxbye

Even Sister Superior has a family for whom soldiery and war is inseparable from their history.  Her grandfather was a morse operator in a tank during World War II and was deafened by a shell hit.  Sent to work back in the headquarters he met and married a German translator - She moved with him to Britain where she struggled, as in the 50s being German was still kinda a sin as far as British people were concerned.

The end result is a family for which people going off in uniform is an ever present thing.  My Dad, partly through nerdy collecting and partly through family archives, has a mixed bag of paraphernalia showing this history.  Whether it's photos of himself as a young lad learning to drive in Kenya; a letter from Polish men thanking my Grandfather for teaching them how to fight; or a chocolate box from 1900 from the Boer War... visiting my house can be like an annex of a museum.

No-one likes when you go round a museum, point at things and say "We've got one of 'em."

So as much as I would like to write about my new historical wargame, about my latest painting, about my thoughts on scratchbuilding tanks .... today, if you don't mind, I might keep quiet pretending to be a general.  Somehow, today, it doesn't seem terribly appropriate

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