On VE Day 2020, I stopped to remember my grandfathers and their contribution to the war effort.
Grandad Knight – Fred Knight, my Mother’s father was an Army Sergeant caught up in the Japanese occupation of Singapore, his last act before capture was for him and his men to ditch their vehicles in the harbour to prevent them falling into the hands of the enemy. He was then captured by the Japanese and saw out the rest of the war in the infamous Changi Prison, At the end of the war when they were released he remembered sleeping on the Billiard table at the Raffles Hotel. Only once did he ever talk about his time there to me. He held no bitterness towards the Japanese for what he had done, but he suffered from survivors guilt, why did he survive when so many of his comrades died. He told me of working in the prison hospital, and the horrors of changing the dressings of those with Gangrene, and seeing them lose limbs and die. Before they could be repatriated they had to be fattened up as they were all skin and bones. My grandmother Dorothy had to bring up my mother throughout the war not knowing whether he was dead or alive.
Grampa Warrey – Frank Warrey my Dad’s dad was a steel worker, so he was in protected employment as steel production was so necessary for the war effort. As well as his work Grampa was a special constable with the Police. I remember as a child wearing his Police Steel Helmet. He too faced his own traumas being the first to enter a bombed cinema in Swansea, finding many of the cinema goers dead in their seats.
Both these men carried their memories with great dignity. However, we now know that they would have faced PTSD. There was no treatment offered for these traumas. Ponder on all that they went through, and lets remember all those who suffered war trauma, loss and bereavement. Most of all lets remember, let’s commemorate these anniversaries so we can continue to learn the lessons of war, and work for peace and justice for all.