Saturday, June 16, 2012

When, how and why it all went wrong. The 1960s.............

I was a war baby and so my early childhood unfolded during the recovery period after that conflict. I remember food rationing, going with my mother to the 'Food Office' in town and not understanding why there was no food on the shelves. Only years later I realised that the place had dispensed the essential rationing coupons. On a day in 1946 I remember my father finally coming home from the war. It was the first memory I have of him. He climbed the steep Sheffield street, at first a black speck in the distance and eventually  becoming a man in a special uniform,although I did not at that stage know that if was the uniform of  an RNVR Lt Commander. Nor did I know what he had been through, until many years later. He was never captured, imprisoned or tortured. He was one of many who fought that war. He never forgot how lucky he was to come back alive. And nor did I. Yet he never ' kept on' about it. Occasionally he would lift the veil. Not until I  was adult did he tell me that his ship 'H..M.S. Whippingham', (I think that's the right spelling.) in fact a converted Isle of Wight  ferry, had been part of the naval force that had 'swept' the Channel just before D Day. Afterwards they did not receive Admiralty orders to return to the relative safety of Portsmouth but were instructed to tie up with another sweeper off the coast of France, until they received orders to sail home.. They were sitting ducks for an enemy gun emplacement on the mainland cliffs. The captain had a nervous breakdown under the strain of this arrangement; eventually my father who was chief navigation officer, was given command and brought the ship and all hands safely back to the Solent. Not until my thirties did he share with me the earlier time that he had stood on the bridge at night, afloat on the freezing waters of Scapa Flow and looking out over those dismal waters had asked himself and maybe God, whether he would ever see his wife again and whether he would ever see me, his only child at all.

I had a secure and happy childhood. I learned obedience, the value of discipline and respect for authority. Of course I fought all of them at times but the boundaries they supplied were rock solid. Then at the approach of generation  came to understand the seriousness of the threat of nuclear war. But although it haunted us we learned to live with it. British satire was very healthy at the time and we were able to laugh at sketches from 'Beyond the Fringe' about Civil Defence and running along to the local leader in th event of the dreaded 'four ninute warning'  and 'he'll tell you exactly were you can go'. Ergo, apart from jumping into a brown paper bag, absolutely nowhere..

As has since transpired, the 1940s and 50s turned out to be the only years of moral societal national stability in my life. Since 1961 when I began my teacher training , everything that I was educated to value and respect has been gradually  destroyed. It is a very hard fact.

to be continued

1 comment:

Genty said...

I'm inclined to think that what happened in the 1960s was the culmination of the modernist movement which gathered steam after WW1, with WW2 being the interruption before the remnants of the Victorian era were finally binned.
I can understand the backlash against the devastation of two dreadful conflicts and the blame attached to previous generations for making such a mess of the world. Those who fought in WW2 had been alive during the previous World War and death had touched families twice over.
The feelings of revulsion across the generations, but articulated by the young, were hijacked by those who had a particular agenda. The naive and widespread belief that it was possible to construct a better world based purely on peace and love was, in effect, a misplaced ideal of the perfectability of mankind. How easy it was for it to be manipulated and skewed by the active forces of ill intent. Conflict continues in a different guise as does the mass killing, albeit silently and in sterile conditions.