The Silent Generations

The Royal Horse Guards Training camp in 1906. These man would go on to become The Old Contemptibles in 1914. My Grandfather, Alfie Tomlins, is in the centre of the back row.

The Royal Horse Guards Training camp in 1906. These man would go on to become The Old Contemptibles in 1914. My Grandfather, Alfie Tomlins, is in the centre of the back row.

A thought struck me when I was finalising assignment 5, three men, who all served in different wars, feature in my photo essay. The main character in my narrative, Fred Grover, was a veteran of the Crimean war, my Grandfather was one of the “Old Contemptibles”, the regular army who held off the German advance in 1914 until a volunteer army could be sent to France, and my Father was with the RAF on both Battle of Britain and later Bomber Command stations.

All three must have been deeply impacted by what they saw but, apart from very superficial remarks, they never really discussed the horror of war. They came from generations that required their men to be the strong silent type, it would have been unmanly to talk of their emotions and, one might think, that staying silent, pushing their memories to the darkest corners of their minds was part of the way they dealt with their war service. War films about the RAF would make my father cry but the only stories he ever told were about the good times, never about the horror he was a part of.

I was reminded of this thought again today when I saw that Time Life *(1) has launched a project to explore the profound effects of war through the stories and photographs of surviving veterans of Korea, Vietnam and WWII. The project has only just started but they have shared the stories of two men on their website who could not cope and who were damaging the relationship with their families without realising that they themselves were damaged.

For my generation most of our teachers and fathers were veterans of WWII and many of our grandfathers had been in the trenches. Based on what we now know about the psychological impact of war we must assume that their minds were full of demons. The Time Life project may encourage some surviving veterans to tell their stories but the three men mentioned above died too long ago to benefit. Other than where they were and when I know little of my Grandfather’s and Father’s wars and wish that I knew more of their stories so I hope the Time Life will help other children and grandchildren understand better what their forebears sacrificed.

Sources

Internet

Time Life – #TIMEvets: Share Your Stories and Photos of Inspiring Ventrans – http://lightbox.time.com/2014/10/19/timevets-share-your-photos/#1

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