Thursday, 30 September 2010

Battle of Britain - 70 Years On.

The 70th anniversary of the Battle of Britain was marked in the European Parliament this week. I took it upon myself to invite a group of colleagues from the Royal British Legion and the RAF Association, and was truly rewarded by such auspicious company.

The highlight of a lovely afternoon was an anecdote from a 96 year old gentleman who had once shot down his own Commanding Officer with a 3 1/2 inch anti-aircraft gun. "He had a few holes in his respirator case" he explained, "but otherwise nothing for him to complain about".

I spend a lot of my time with older veterans, and I know that such comments are usually accompanied by a wink, a chuckle, and a tear in the corner of the eye.

Our elderly friend often sits quietly in O'Farrels bar, outside the European Parliament, whilst MEPs and apparatchiks, bursting with self-importance, bustle around spending freely and laughing at their own jokes. They may impress themselves - and possibly (although not very likely) they may even impress one another. They rarely impress me, unlike our friend, who impresses me greatly.

When he finished causing havoc with his own side - his CO had chosen to fly into RAF Wattisham whilst an air raid was in progress, so only had himself to blame - our friend then took part in the liberation of Belgium.

Last month, his Belgian wife, who he married after the war, passed away, leaving him completely alone.

There are thousands of such men, with thousands of such wonderful stories to tell. So if you want to enrich two lives in one go, next time you see an elderly man sitting alone with his thoughts in a pub, go and say "Hello", but most importantly, remember to say "Thank You!"

No comments:

Post a Comment