A READER WRITES –
Something has been on my mind for the last six months or so but, until last week, I wasn’t sure what it was. You know the feeling, a vague concern that perhaps things are not right but you’re not sure what. Last week a true hero died, his name was Captain Eric ‘Winkle’ Brown and he was probably one of the finest pilots that Britain has ever seen. Not only that, Captain Brown was a war hero in the truest sense of the word. He helped liberate the concentration camps and, thanks to his fluent German, he interrogated both Himmler and Goering after their capture. There are not many men like Captain Eric Brown.
My Grandfather on my Mother’s side was also a military veteran. In 1914 when the call came he was one of those bright, cheerful young men who headed down to the recruiting office and he then spent the next four years manning an artillery barrage on the Western Front. In 1939 he was again in uniform but, due to injuries received, he was an air raid warden encouraging one and all to “put that bloody light out” in the vain hope that the Luftwaffe would miss Manchester that night and lives would be saved. In 1914 when he signed on the dotted line my Grandfather would have been 22, Captain Eric Brown would have been 20, and Wing Commander Guy Gibson who led the Dam Busters raid in 1943 would have been 25 when he took off that night. Want an American example? Brigadier General Paul Tibbets was 30 when he dropped the atomic bomb on Hiroshima. War is a young man’s game.
Fast forward to 2015/16 and Europe is in the middle of the biggest refugee crisis that it has seen since the second world war. Hundreds of thousands of people are moving from the Middle East north and north west into Europe by any means possible. This mass of people contains a large number of young men of fighting age and I’m curious why they are there. Seventy five years ago young men of their age would have been queuing up outside the recruiting office, eager to defend their country, but now they just want to get the hell out of there and head for Western Europe.
There are a number of theories about what is going on here. Firstly there is the Arab attitude of ‘Inshallah’ or ‘God wills it’. Nothing happens without the will of God and if President Assad wishes to wage war on his own people or Islamic State decide to take over swathes of the Middle East then it is just the will of God. Secondly, the young men you see are part of the Facebook generation and it has been my observation that a lot of people in their early twenties care about very little (voting turnout figures confirm this). Maybe they just want to get out of the Middle East in search of a better life and think that their country is not worth defending? Certainly there are no posters of the Islamic version of Lord Kitchener staring out of the paper with a plea to defend their country and join the resistance against President Assad.
One final thing. For years we had a family friend who refused to fight in WWII because he was a member of the Quaker faith. On September 1st 1939 he quit his job as a carpenter and joined the fire service where he probably saw just as much death and destruction as any soldier or sailor. On VE Day he celebrated the end of the war with a clear conscience and then went back to his carpenter’s workshop. That was a man I also admired.
So, when a border guard is processing his next refugee in the queue and he sees a healthy young man standing before him perhaps his first question should be “Why did you not stay behind and fight for your country”. The answers received will be of interest.