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Remembering my grandfathers on Remembrance Day

In our latest blog Kristy Watters, Cygnet’s Head of Employee Relations, writes about why Armistice Day and Remembrance Day is so important and reminisces about her two grandfathers who both fought in the Second World War.

Remembrance (Armistice) Day is on 11th November. It marks the day World War One ended, at 11am on the 11th day of the 11th month, in 1918.

It’s an important day to me. Both of my grandfathers served in World War Two. My paternal grandfather, Michael, died before I was born so I could never speak to him and ask him about his experiences. He was Irish, and came over to England in the 1930s. I always wondered why he’d chosen to serve in the British Army when he didn’t have to due to Ireland’s neutrality. Estimates I’ve seen say he was 1 of 70,000-150,000 volunteers from the Republic of Ireland who did. He served in North Africa.

The grandfather I grew up with was my maternal grandfather, Ron. He was a great grandad. He had a huge white moustache, and loved to chase us round the house and hide around corners. But what I really remember about Ron was his ’jungle’ stories from his time serving in Burma (Myanmar). When we stayed over, me, my sister and our cousins would jump into bed with him and my grandmother and he’d tell us stories about the bald captain who, when they were lost in the jungle, let them use his head and the sun to signal for help. And the elephant, whose paw he’d pulled a thorn from, then years later when the family had been at the circus, the same elephant was there and recognised him, came over and picked up my mum (then a little girl) and gave her a ride on his back.

When Ron returned from Burma, my mum was two years old and she didn’t recognise him. She didn’t recognise the strange man who was now living with them. I wish I’d asked him what that felt like, to have your baby not know who you are. I wish I’d asked him about his real experiences of war. I didn’t see past the jungle stories for many years, and unfortunately he passed away about 20 years ago. I wonder if the time spent in Burma was so bad he had to joke about it with his stories to deflect away other memories, or maybe he came away with positivity and friendships for life, or maybe it was a mixture of both. I wish I had asked when he was still here.

So, wearing my poppy with pride, at the 11th hour, of the 11th day, of the 11th month, I will be thinking about my grandfathers, Ron and Michael, and giving thanks for their service and with gratitude that they came back at all.

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