Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Apathy Jack writes:

Here, for ANZAC day, is something Olthwaite wrote a few years ago on a different blog. I'm presuming he won't mind me digging it up and bringing it to light again.


Thanks Old People

Now, seemingly everyone within range of a television has been watching or has at least seen the promo's for "Band of Brothers" on T.V. one, you might have also watched the excellent "Colour of War" documentary or the Sunday night Militaryfest on Prime (although that has now changed to a bit of science and anthropology - isn't Prime a beacon in the darkness). I've been watching all of these, and every now and then a thought crosses my mind.

Shit, thanks Old People.

And I'm not being sarcastic or cynical when I write this. Watching what our grandparents went through in the more realistic action scenes and stories told by veterans really brings home an awareness of what people our age - just like you or I or any number of our friends - endured sixty years ago.

Here are a few examples. On the first night of "Band of Brothers" when the paratroopers were over France about to jump out of their planes - unsurprisingly under heavy ground fire, a few planes became firebombs. Imagine flying one of those through that at night, or jumping out under a parachute while all that shit goes on around you. Or the first wave ashore for Operation Overlord being told that, well, they were probably all going to die - as well as the second wave - and that they just had to capture as much of the beach as they can, imagine being told that you are cannon fodder. Finally from the "Colour of War" series, a veteran was retelling the story of going ashore at Sicily almost in tears as he recalled how a shell exploded nearby while they were still in the water and how he has never eaten tripe since because it reminds him of the smell of swimming through people's guts. And then, he had to rescue an army pastor who had had his legs blown off and was still alive - holy fuck!

There are millions of stories like these from both sides, of bravery and horror - it's no wonder that some, like my grandfather, never talked about the war nor had any memorabilia on display. He threw out his uniform as well never wanting to have anything to do with the whole experience ever again.

What would I do in any of those situations - I have no idea. I don't know if I'd even get through training, but if I did I don't know if I'd go on autopilot and fight like a motherfucker or cower in a hole, I don't want to find out either but I'd like to think that I'd do the first if the cause is just. (I'd like to be a pilot, as an aside, I wonder what it would be like ten kilometers above Afghanistan at night in a space not much bigger than my computer desk with the constant noise of my jet engines for two hours. It'd be kinda nice but I'm probably being kinda naïve.)

Funny thing is, that 87 year old guy in the supermarket with the gammy hip and little basket of cat food walking at 1kmph and spending 8 minutes on a simple decision probably garroted an Italian at Cassino or sent a few Heinkels to the bottom of the Channel one night in 1941. And some dickhead skateboarders will try and buzz around him at as close range as possible on his way out to the Mini. Remember kids - he's killed people, and we should be grateful that he did and remember that killing people is sometimes necessary to ensure the freedom to be a dickhead skateboarder. Judging by the increased popularity that ANZAC days are getting people are realizing this as, which is good. Those who actually took part are getting fewer and fewer, Curly Blyth died last week, taking with him memories of two World Wars, and of times when the bad people looked like they were going to win. What's going on in the world at the moment is the closest we have ever come to anything like that feeling - and hopefully if we learn about how and why the mistakes of the past occurred we won't need to get any closer.

So, once again - Thanks Old People.


Paul said...

I hope that 87 year-old didn't garotte an Italian at Monte Cassino - the Italians had surrendered the previous September.

Whatever he did, thanks old person

Eric Olthwaite said...

I was thinking of the 87 year old as a bomber pilot, shot down over Monte Cassino the previous August when the Eyeties were still our enemies.

So There.