The 11th of November is approaching, and as always at this time of year, poppies will be worn by people of all ages across the country. One special lady who will be wearing hers with pride is Radfield Home Care client Nancy, 81, who lives in Bexhill on Sea in East Sussex.
“I was born not long before the Second World War started. My dad went off to fight and I remember him not being around very much when I was a little girl. I also remember the rationing! My mum was a terrible cook, so that didn’t help, but my gran used to make some very creative desserts and puddings. I don’t think I’d want to eat them again, mind, I’ll stick to Marks and Spencers now!”
Nancy is a firm believer in the power of sharing her life experiences and opinions, something she was kind enough to do with Samuel Holmes, director of Radfield Home Care Bexhill, Hastings & Battle.
Nancy also explained:
“I feel the poppy is an important symbol of remembrance. It doesn’t matter whether you are anti-military, a pacifist, or neither, it really doesn’t matter. You don’t even have to know of anyone who has served in the British Armed Forces, it all about the people who gave their lives for our country and they deserve to be commemorated, whether you feel that it was justified or not. Their ultimate sacrifice merits more than ignorance or indifference.”
Nancy also enjoys discussing her memories of growing up during and after the war with her Radfield carer regularly, especially in the run-up to Remembrance Sunday.
“I was lucky, my dad came back. So many others didn’t – and it wasn’t just soldiers who died, it was all those people in London and the Midlands who were killed in the Blitz. Even all these years later, I can hardly bear to think about how many people sacrificed their lives for our freedom. The least we can do is wear a poppy for them on Remembrance Sunday.”
This year, like she does every year, Nancy will be attending the church service at St Peter’s Church, Bexhill in memory of the fallen, where she’ll watch a wreath of poppies being laid in memory of the lives that have been lost. She says that 2018 is particularly important.
“It will have been 100 years since the end of the First World War. When I was growing up, people still talked about it. All those lads who signed up, some out of a sense of duty, others pressured by friends and the papers, telling them it was the righteous choice. In the village where I used to live, there’s a list of over 100 names on the war memorial – and there was only a population of 2,000. It’s shocking, and I think we all need to remember those brave men.”
Picture: Jo from Cooden, Bexhill Second World War memories
Not all Radfield Home Care clients share Nancy’s view. 80-year-old Jo, who lives just up the road in Cooden won’t be wearing a poppy. Like Nancy, he is of the generation born just before the Second World War – but unlike her, he lost his father in the conflict.
“Growing up without a dad wasn’t easy, but when I was young, I was always told what a great hero he was. He went off to fight for his country, and he never came back. People said that he had made a great sacrifice for our freedom and that I was lucky to be the son of a hero. I didn’t feel very lucky, but I had to tell myself that they were right, and that Dad had done something amazing for the sake of the world.”
Today, though, Jo’s lapel is poppy-free he recalls:
“I think it was during the Falklands when I started to see things differently. I kept seeing all those stories in the news, and it brought back the memories of my Dad, or certainly the memories of people talking about my Dad because I don’t remember him at all, which is a great pity. I began to wonder, did they really go to make a sacrifice for freedom, or were they just working-class men who lost their lives for political reasons.”
Jo has no memories of his father, and his Mum is no longer alive to talk about him. It doesn’t stop him from thinking about him and of other children who lose their family because of conflict.
Jo also explains:
“My dad was only 23 when he died. If I think back to myself at that age, I can’t imagine ever thinking that I wanted to die for my country. The more time goes by, the more I see it as a tragedy. And all these wars that have happened since, in the Middle East, with more young lads dying…what’s it all for? How long is it going to continue? There must be so many youngsters without a dad today, and I wouldn’t wish that on anyone.”
Jo is also quick to say that he believes in remembering the dead. He comments:
“Whatever the reasons people have lost their lives, it’s tragic. However, I don’t think there should be so much ceremony, so much fuss. I don’t want it to be this big romantic thing about dying patriotically. Maybe we need to look at it in a different way, there’s no such thing as a noble or heroic sacrifice, war is hugely damaging to those affected by it.”
Like Nancy, Jo will be observing the minute’s silence on Remembrance Sunday – but, he says, his thoughts will be with the families of soldiers who died. A few years ago, he wore a white poppy to support peace, but this year he’s chosen to go without. Jo explains:
“I got some hassle over it. A few people don’t seem to understand the white poppy. It’s supposed to be about peace, but they think it means that you’re anti forces. So to be honest, I think I’m better off leaving it at home.”
Will the staff of Radfield Home Care Bexhill, Hastings & Battle be wearing poppies on the 11th of November? Samuel firmly believes that it’s an individuals choice. Samuel explains:
“One of our many strengths in Radfield Home Care is our ability to understand our clients and respect their values. People like Jo and Nancy may need help to live independently, but they have their own unique views and priorities. They deserve to be treated as individuals and have their opinions respected – something Radfield Home Care is committed to doing. Remembrance Sunday has become a little controversial recently. Whether you’ll be wearing your red poppy proudly or not, we think it’s important to talk, listen and understand what are clients think about this important part of our heritage.”
Get in touch with your local Radfield Home Care office today and find out more about the support we offer and the difference we can make.