VE Day and me

May 6, 2020

I think we can all recognise that VE day is less of a celebration and more of a reflection of the sacrifices that our families have made to ensure the lives we live today are free.

We are living in unprecedented times. For many of us, we are living through the toughest period in our lives to date. The restrictions on our collective freedoms and a feeling of helplessness are something that hits us all hard.

I find it difficult to comprehend what WW2 was like for the people of Britain. Many of our relatives lived through the loss of 450,000 British souls and 400,000 wounded. Today we have a grasp of mental health, and I cannot begin to imagine what the fallout was for all those involved.

My family is probably typical of most British families at that time. My grandfather worked as an ambulance driver in Hull, his wife and my grandmother worked with the NAAFI. On the other side of my family, my grandmother worked at the 'Royal Ordinance Factory' in Ranskill, and my grandfather was in the RAF.

I have always been interested in what my grandfather did during the war; unfortunately, like many men of his generation, he chose not to talk about it. Sadly he took this to his grave.

A few years ago, I researched his RAF career and was shocked to find that I wasn't the only one. He was part of a crew of a Short Stirling bomber N3703 'G for Goblin' that crashed just outside of Godmanchester on the 11th April 1942. He survived. Members of his crew were not that lucky. Two died that night, and another three died before VE day.

In 2017 a culmination of the work by a local historian and author - Roger Lievers, a memorial was erected to commemorate the losses that day.

It is a fascinating story, one that I cannot do justice to here. That story is told in Roger's book - 'Stirlings to Essen'

On the memorial stone, there is an extract from the poem Bomber Command.

"To fly through cloud, through storm through night.

Unerring and to keep their purpose bright

Nor turn, until their dreadful duty done,

Westward they climb, to race the awakened sun."

VE day to me is less of a celebration and more of an opportunity to reflect on what my grandparents did for me. I am lucky enough to have still one very quick-witted grandmother left. She turned 101 in February this year, the last personal connection that I have to that time.

I am proud of what we did of a nation in exceptional circumstances. We pulled together at a time of a national crisis and in future I hope that we don't forget what we can achieve when we are united.