There is a distinct lack of ‘thank you NHS’ flags and the pretty rainbows drawn by children (or purchased ready made from one of the many on-line internet outlets). The ones that are left are now starting to look rather faded and worn outside the few homes here in St. Mary on the Wold that still choose to display the symbols of the hysteria whipped up by the media at the height of the virus pandemic.
Walking through the village today, one might have thought that there would have been a few Union Jacks flying to commemorate V.J. Day but it seems that either the inhabitants are all ‘commemorated out’ or have very short memories of what today’s date commemorates, not that that would have surprised the survivors of the hell of Japanese captivity, or the extreme stress that fighting in the Burma campaign as a member of the 14th Army or as a soldier of Wingate’s Chindits, who, by the time they arrived back in ‘Blighty’, often a broken shadow of their former selves, found the country had moved on. Not for nothing did they refer to themselves as ‘the forgotten army’.
The country moved on indeed and history became something that could be re-written or erased, something not to be taken seriously, ‘bunk’ as Henry Ford famously said. There is something in this of course, as research done by SAAFA, the charity that looks after the welfare of ex-military personnel found after asking 2,020 Britons aged over 16 what V.J Day commemorated. 46 percent did not know what it meant while only five percent said, after being told what it meant, they would celebrate it every year. More than half said they ‘basically didn’t know or care’ (my italics). Actually, it was reported that they would not feel anything about the anniversary, which is a more polite way of putting it.
Hopefully the good people of Bromsgrove in Worcestershire are still aware of the meaning and feel differently about the sacrifices made by service personnel in what was then referred to as the Far East, and understand what V.J Day and the commemorations represent as the town had an impressive Burma Star Association memorial unveiled in 1984 commemorating those that fell during the Burma Campaign at Kohima Digboi, Gauhti, Rangoon, Taukkyan Imphal Manidure.
What they endured – particularly those that became prisoners of war – makes the tribulations and demands of our latest snowflake generation look rather silly in comparison when hundreds of them paraded through that other bastion of Middle England – Stratford on Avon during the lockdown, totally ignoring the law and without, it seems, any consequences, to demand that ‘black lives matter’ as do all. Who could not agree with that sentiment? Pity that according to the same research few over 16s have any idea how 70,000 British and Allied servicemen taken prisoner by the Japanese in Burma lived and died in terrible conditions, beaten mercilessly, executed on a whim, half-starved and worked to death, and all this in the living memory of their grandparents. However, they apparently have infallible knowledge of events that happened anything up to 300 years ago, events that the ‘British’ were the most effective in stopping.
‘At the going down of the sun, We shall remember them.’ Many do, but far too many have very short memories and little knowledge or interest of what grandfather or great grandfather experienced and had to endure during the second world war.
What the ‘forgotten army’ didn’t get was much in the way of help from government handouts. When finally freed after the Japanese surrendered, those returning to Bromsgrove would have found things much the same as they had been before the war, although the town now sported the beginnings of the new council estates, built mainly to house the people from Birmingham who largely worked in the then still thriving local industry which supplied the Austin Motor Company, Garrington’s and other medium size companies. The town itself had not changed very much. True, there were several new hospitals ready to become part of the new and free National Health Service, but these were, in the main, hospitals built by the Americans during the war to cope with the expected casualties following the Normandy landings.
So not much had really changed in Bromsgrove. It was for many a gradual return to something at first like the 1930s part two, make do and mend and get on with it was the order of the day. Not very newsworthy these days but in one of those twists of history, Bromsgrove is again in the news this week in which we commemorate the Japanese surrender and 75 years after the end of World War 2. It has been reported that illegal immigrants have been given accommodation in Bromsgrove at a five-star hotel at the tax-payers’ expense. This has caused some consternation in the mainstream media; I’m told it’s even been reported on the BBC and Sky News so it must be true!
It’s not the first time that Worcestershire has had the attention of our political leaders. In the 90s it was mooted that an immigrant holding centre was to be built at a disused RAF airfield at Pershore. The Labour politician responsible tried to sell the idea that putting a large number of immigrants in the middle of nowhere would be a good idea and said he didn’t know what all the furore was about as it would create local jobs. Anyway the centre came to nothing. Our mandarins may be fairly incompetent but they do have long memories, so much so that when Professor Neil Fergusson of Imperial College London (described then as a mathematical biologist), following some statistical model or other during the foot and mouth epidemic of 2001, created a model that panicked the Labour government to cull millions of sheep and farm animals nationwide, which wiped out much of the industry and herds that had taken generations to build. Anyway, the Labour government of the time arranged to bury tens of thousands of dead animals at said Pershore Airfield.
Back to the present time and all these poor people who appear to be young fit and healthy men, fleeing by rubber dinghy for their lives from war-torn France and braving the dangers of the English Channel are afforded not basic accommodation but accommodation in four- and five-star hotels across the country, one at least being in Worcestershire. These people are illegals, not British Service personnel returning home, which is in stark contrast to how returning servicemen are treated by the political class in the UK and by much of the ‘public’, who often have a two-faced attitude to service personnel. This has become more evident over the last few years as fewer and fewer people have any experience of service life and lack the concept of personal responsibility and self-discipline.
Part 2 of Remember to forget or forget to remember will be published here tomorrow.