Hostages to misfortune

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VOLUNTEERS: War no longer for the masses.

ABOUT 10 years ago the word austerity returned to common use. I thought I knew what it meant but I checked it out anyway. Most of us now know what it means. 

Research reveals that in the EU and US more than 10,000 people have taken their own lives due to recession-related reasons. The term recession suggests an act of God. It is not. It is the wilful plundering of Western economies by banking cartels, conglomer-ates, corrupt and incompetent politicians. For many of us current austerity is an action replay. 

Yet, in some ways, I consider my generation, now sitting in God’s waiting room, as the lucky generation.  The nature of war has changed though the curse of conflict is as widespread now as it was 1939 – 1945. 

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Males born from 1940 onwards were the first in Britain who, unless they volunteered, would never wear military uniform.  

As a young seaman all my older peers had served in one of the services.  The Merchant Navy lost a higher percentage of men to war than did Bomber Command.

Yet, no one complained, no one questioned it.  Women gave birth, men served in the armed forces.  Those old enough to be my big brother served the empire in India, Africa, the Middle and Far East; and in a shell crater that stretched from Liverpool to the Urals. We took death in our stride.  As nippers it was commonplace to call in at a neighbour’s home to see and pay respect to someone who had gone on their not so merry way. 


We bathed in a tin bath in front of a coke fire.  We bought half a penny’s worth of fades; apples and pears too bruised to sell. Most people grew their own veg and we plucked or otherwise skinned chicken and rabbits that still had their feet and heads on.

Many of us were to wait until we were working before we wore anything but second-hand clothes. The games we played were board games not bored games. We spent hours playing tiddlywinks, cards, draughts, ludo, snakes and ladders. 

We still had ration books so purchase of food and clothing was strictly controlled. As in a prison you were allowed just enough to keep body and soul together. Heating and carpets were luxury items. For news we were dependent upon a tightly controlled media. As far as I can recall there were only two social classes, them and us. Austerity is trade linked and both prelude and consequence of war.  When meeting US President Truman at Fulton in 1946, Winston Churchill was forthright: “The war was not just a matter of the elimination of Fascism in Germany but rather of obtaining German sales markets.”


Today, Russia and China are seriously impacting on Western trade. This is the 1930s all over again.  “If you want a picture of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face – for ever”. – George Orwell. 

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