15 May 2010

Preparing For An Anniversary

For various reasons, I am involved in preparations for one celebration of the 70th Anniversary of the Battle of Britain (as are so many other people and organisations!) and I have had a curious insight.  I reckon that most of us who were born between 1945 and 1960 are as affected by the Second World War as though we'd lived through it. 

We eat everything that's put in front of it; we don't make a fuss; we accept that not everything will work as scheduled; our upper lip is stiff; we don't expect that things will ever be perfect.

We were brought up by people who were formed by military service and by rationing.  Military service was reflected in a profusion of clubs, socieites, sodalities and guilds in which there was a hierarchy of posts up which one could ascend; in an expectation that the Man in Whitehall could behave as though he knew best; in politeness, deference and civility; in queueing.  Rationing was reflected in awful food: you cooked what you were given, out of what was available.  Meat was always overcooked because that way any iffiness (whether of source or freshness) might be overcome; food served at restaurants was "fancy", because the link between how you ate at home and how we had always eaten was lost; egg and chips became an option for a meal.

When we were little, our parents expected that we would end up being called up, and we'd end up fighting the Soviets; so discipline mattered, because it would make the transition to Basic Training a tinier bit easier.  "March nicely, boys" to a playground full of infants.

And that meant that our end was nigher, and that we ought to prepare for the Last things first.  A class of seven year olds singing "Dear St Joseph Spouse of Mary" would bellow out the chorus "Teach, O teach, us how to die" and our parents would be glad we were learning how to prepare ourselves for what was coming.

Then the 1960s happened.

Every time the Nazi says "Good Luck" to Gordon Jackson, and he replies "Thank You" during "The Great Escape", I know what side I'm on, and have been on since ever I can remember, and why. 

And I feel the most curious nostalgia for a time I cannot possibly remember.


The Cellarer said...

The Battle of Britain stopped us losing the war, Bomber Command played a massive part in winning it. Finally they are to get a memorial. My grandfather's cousin FTR just short of his 30 op tour.


Moretben said...

I remember my mother's terror, well into the '60's, of unexploded ordnance. I remember her shrieking at my 5 year old self to relinquish a battered capacitor I'd discovered at the roadside. "Never pick up anything like that! It might be a bomb!". I remembered being completely nonplussed by his lurid injunction. Why on earth would it be a bomb?

We often had egg & chips (and still do!), though we have long since abandoned the dutiful observance of suppressing the gag reflex over our a plate of tripe, which outlived rationing by almost a decade...

mike cliffson said...

almost ditto.
I have a hard job explaining to my kids how sommat that was over five years before I was born is my whole mental background.
Details differ.
I Still enjoy bread and dripping.But a lot of meals teas, suppers, breakfast were bread and dripping or nothing. I loved it! NO fat was wasted, bowls of it sat in the pantry. Nothing was wasted!
Oh my goodness me, I can't forget trying to use ridiculously small writing on tiny bits of paper.
It was a liberation when that started to go out, say abt '58.
I'd need my own blog to flesh out.

Re 70th: Are any of them left alive? Pilots wafs, whatever?

JARay said...

As it happens I can remember.
I was at school all the way through the war. I remember walking to school carrying my gas-mask and we were all told to bring a packet of chewing-gum to school so that if we had to sit through an air raid then we had something to chew on to keep us occupied. I remember seeing a flare falling down. It lit up the whole place, and myself and my two brothers stood at our bedroom window watching it. A giant fire-work display! We grew all our own vegetables in the allotment and Saturday was the day we went to the allotment to cultivate it. Mother would be at home baking bread for the week.Coal was rationed and you had to get the baking done when you could.

Dorothy said...

Fascinating to compare these experiences, some real, others "ghostly" memories of things we didn't actually live through.

I was born after the end of the war, but it all seems to be part of me. I certainly remember the continued rationing, and the books of coupons. All those war films they kept making, long after the war, may also have had something to do with it.

It goes further back for me. My mother's hey-day was in the 1930s, and her photographs of those days - and the fashions - are programmed into my brain, as if I had been there too.

I find it hard to resist the umpteenth repeats of Poirot, or Foyle's War. I have a number of old recipe books, as well as the reprints of old Ministry leaflets: "Eat for Victory" and "Make Do and Mend".

I hate to waste fabric items; I have turned sheets sides-to-middle. I have no plans, however, to reverse the collars and cuffs of my husband's shirts; I'll definitely give that a miss.

Now then, you see what you've started with this post!

the mother of this lot said...

Don't tell lies. I bet you sang 'Teachers, teachers ought to die' like everybody else did.

JARay said...

I never sang "'Teachers, teachers ought to die'" but I did hate Sister Agnes who caned me because, as a precocious five year old, I had dared to kiss Julie Cook. All those girls ran up to Sister Agnes to tell her what a terrible thing I had done! I didn't have any sisters so I did not know the depths that such scheming beings would stoop!

Londiniensis said...

And yet, and yet. The 60s, the Pill, the warped implementation of Vatican II in fact corrupted most of that "baby boomer" generation. Look around you. Look at the media, the denizens of Westminster and (God help us) the Church in these islands.

berenike said...

Tripe is lovely. I don't buy it as often as I would, because though my housemate loves it too, she moans about the smell of it cooking.