My mum worshipped Winston Churchill and made us listen as a family to his speeches on steam radio. This was pre-TV days. I was made to drink thick sickly orange juice and syrup of figs daily (for my own good).
I remember sweetie coupons and a pull-along toy dachshund with leather joints acquired from the POW camp at Sighthill. Mum was very sympathetic to the young men there.
Dad often wore his KOSB Glengarry in the garden and sometimes in the house too. He survived a posting to Shetland while his great pal Jock Hunter from Hawick was shot from the sky as he parachuted into Arnhem.
Dad’s feet, narrow, dainty, and boney, were pretty well ruined by army boots but that’s what saved his life. He told us, and we believed him, that it was so windy on Shetland that soldiers were tethered to the ground by stakes to stop them blowing away.
The same was true, he claimed, of the sheep. Uncle Dod, an older brother, was in the brutal Arctic Convoys. All he would tell us of those was that he grew his great black beard to protect his face from the sub-zero temperatures and that if he touched it the icy beard would break into a thousand pieces. We were in awe.
Today, after observing too many wars, I am a pacifist and as such folk sometimes confuse this with being anti-army. No, I am anti-war. In fact, I have huge regard for our services sent into wars without an exit strategy and into conflicts which often make matters worse for the indigenous people. I pray in aid two Iraq Wars, several Afghanistan conflicts and the Falklands.
In some of these, the very equipment, let alone an exit strategy, was posted missing. Men especially after the first Iraq war who suffered from neurological illness from the cocktail of drugs injected into them have fought for years for recognition of their illnesses and the causal link.
The second Iraq war left a nation deprived of any government. With “Shock and Awe”, there was no exit strategy. Falklands left many dead and disfigured and was a gung-ho response from Margaret Thatcher, who was happy to be photographed, scarf flying, astride a tank. What a photo op. What a complete failure of intelligence and diplomacy.
Then what can you say about Afghanistan today? After 20 years, Joe Biden looked at his watch. Time to pull out. Not only that, along with his hapless predecessor Donald Trump, just to help the Taliban, he told them the dates the USA would be leaving.
No wonder the Taliban overran the country within days. We are as culpable, leaving Afghans who worked with us to fend for themselves. Like Iraq, the economy has crashed and thousands if not millions are at risk of starvation.
Legacy? I leave you to decide. Ours not to question why? Our troops cannot dissent when politicians, who will not face the front-line, should be more accountable. Lest we forget, yes. Lest we forget the bravery of our troops and the errors of our politicians.