Saturday, July 31, 2010

A Positive Aspect of War

One of the great outcomes of a major war is that people of all classes and from various strata of life are thrown together in a common cause.
This means that the lavatory attendant and the Lord must live together closely and have to get on with it.
In the last war, certainly, the self-important, mother-spoiled and pompous of any class, soon had it knocked out of them. So all were quickly seen as being of their own worth. The good and the bad came from all classes, sects, professions, religions or whatever. In the eyes of their comrades, superficiality was soon stripped from their outer surfaces and they were revealed as humans, humans with much the same aspirations and ambitions in life as those of their comrades.
Initially, one’s part in a war with its drill and be drilled gave little time for personal thought. It was not much fun. But you survived it. Then there was more time to make friendships as people developed their own maturing wartime characters.
Those of us who trained as pilots in the RAF and survived, eventually were demobilised and released from service life to go our own way. A few had jobs to return to. Because of our age, most of my contemporaries, who left school life to fight, had then to decide how to contend with the future.
Our war experiences had taught us that rich or poor, famous or not, opulent or pauper, we were all much the same as one another. And we had learned to speak to our fellows as equals. For this bit of free and major part of my education I was extremely grateful.
Some of us who flew together are still bonded by our wartime past. We meet before Christmas in friendship, and to celebrate the fact that some of us are still alive.
One of our number, a Bishop, has just died. We were friends as airmen in war, seldom, if ever mentioning religion. With one being a devout Christian and the other becoming a staunch atheist, our friendship continued in peacetime with me an artist and writer, and he a Bishop.
We will miss the Bishop, even though he became too frail to join our recent get-togethers.
But he has died and, no doubt, in his earthly Christian mind he will have gone to heaven.
I just wonder if having passed through the Pearly Gates he will be thrown together with a disparate bunch of characters, just as he was with us in wartime.