Nine days ago we published a selection of blogs about why the memory of Armistice Day is so important. Several of our supporters sent in their own articles and reminiscences but not all of them were published at the time. Some were retained (with the authors’ consent) for later anniversaries.
This one, sent in by EBF’s own ‘Hulk’, is perfect for the anniversary of the opening of the Nuremberg trials. We hope you find it as powerful as we did… (EBFBlogger)
I’ve a little story I want to share about my Grandfather, he was born just too late to fight in the Great War, and he was old to be fighting in the second, so he became a mechanic in the RAF, he was an ordinary man, simple values and beliefs. In 1944 he was at a forward airfield not far from Caen when some units of the 21st Panzer and some SS units wiped out so many poor young Canadians. They were advancing on the village close to the airfield and the only people who could stop them were the RAF personel, cooks, mechanics, signalmen many who had not fired a rifle since basic training, but they grabbed their weapons and went to do what they could, like so many ordinary soldiers in extraordinary times. They fought and died, KILLED and some survived but they saved the village until some of the Sherbrooke Fusiliers relieved them, My Grandad survived, but he lost many friends.
When he was in his early nineties, he decided, having been in a care home for 8 years that he wasn’t sure when he was going to die, so after a long battle he got a council flat and moved out of the care home, My sisters and I would go and cook a whole series of meals and freeze them every week, when he struggled to walk he bought a scooter and would go to the local park, he would always say hello to those he passed, but one day it was raining I remember, I went in said hi Grandad, and he was sitting in his chair crying, I had never seen him do that before, I ran to him thinking he had fallen or was in pain, he looked at me tears on his cheek and said these words to me;
“I taste the taste of death every night”
I sat and listened, his clear grey eyes darkened and he told me the story
“In April 1945 we were mainly driving delivering supplies we were sent with trucks of supplies to a camp called Belsen, from a few miles there was a strange atmosphere, no wildlife, everything was quiet, when we got to the gates we saw half humans , walking corpses, and the smell, I smell the smell of death every night”
The tears were streaming down both our cheeks, we hugged for a while until we both stopped. He grabbed my hand and said “never again”
For 50 years he had tasted that taste as he slept if you can call nightmares sleep, there was no treatment for PTSD back then.
He never stopped loving life, he bought a computer at 94, he said he had to live for his friends that died and the two young Germans he killed young enough to be his sons.
The night he died he met his first great grandchild, and I sat with him after the others left, he’d had a stroke and said nothing in two days, I kissed his forehead and said ” I love you” I then realised I had never told him that, he gripped my hand with all his strength, the same strength that held my hand as a little boy walking across Yorkshire moors, that grip of strength and safety, and he said his last words “Go now, I love you too”
I sat outside the door as he spent his last half an hour talking with all the people he had known. I knew when he had gone, I left.
The fog was thick as I walked along the river, the strange orange glow of sodium lights above and his words came to me, i scrabbled for a pen and a scrap of paper and i wrote his words, he said it must not happen again.
Can it be they are men
Gaunt faces, sunken cheeks
Dark dead eyes
Those that move shuffling forward
Feet dragging through a sea of mud
Matchstick fingers clinging to wire not moving
Every bone is shown angular and deformed
Creaking with every tiny movement
Cuts putrid rotting
Then the smell sweet and sickly
Causing nausea deep within
Rising unstoppable spewing forward
I saw those the few survivors
The ragged remnants of a battalion of 6 million others
Now some say it never happened
A mere detail in history
Or perhaps a communist lie
Let those that forget
Let those that deny
Taste the taste of death I taste every night