The War Made Me

When I ask my grown up children about the War,they look blank and ask which one Iraq or Afghanistan? To them Vietnam is just  a place to go on  your Gap year. But as much as anyone  in  my generation ,the Second World War made me and therefore my family.

Pre War,my natural father was a Jewish politician in Prague and therefore on the  Nazi hit list. He fled leaving his wife and two children(my half brother and sister therefore) behind. He had hoped to get them out later. He couldn’t. They perished along with other relatives in the camps.

He had an affair  towards the end of the War with my mother. Her marriage to my legal father  had not withstood the pressures and absences of the long  conflict. She then had an affair and later married my  stepfather a German Jew who had escaped with his family in 1938. His sister escaped overland via Spain to Portugal where she married Belgian.

During the War my natural,legal,step and fathers in  law all served. All were mentioned in dispatches. My step father famously ended up  as a mountain skills instructor on the Himalayas. At the end of the war  many felt that Russia would attack India and the Airborne  Brigade was getting ready.

My grandfather and great uncle also served,my great uncle (Douglas Gracey ) with considerable distinction. They had also  as regular Indian Army officers fought in the First War.My father in law and  his  four brothers all fought in various theatres all rising to be majors one , marrying into a pacifist family changing his mind and later becoming a conscientious objector. Another non serving younger brother died when his house was hit by a bomb and the gas leakage poisoned him. My half sister Barbara while in her cot in 1945 was  cut by falling glass after a V bomb fell close by.

My natural father  eventually married  another displaced Czech and  settled in Canada where he had two more children. One of them married into a Hungarian Jewish family also displaced by the War. My half sister Jane married a Polish American whose family had during the war escaped from Poland  via Persia and then onto the USA. Two Czech cousins hid in a French convent for the duration.

As a boy I remember playing in bomb sites and rationing. A second egg was something I remember  in particular. The last living link, my stepfather 99 hangs on,when awake singing German lullabies and no doubt thinking of his Mutti in Berlin. His father fought on the wrong side  at Verdun.

The War was a volcano which killed tens of millions, displaced many more,impoverished a  generation but when the kaleidoscope of destruction settled my family was made.

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