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.