Friday, 7 August 2020

Forgotten

by Mark Readman 

Indian pale ale

Edward Watts had volunteered to take the afternoon sessions at the local school, though he had been due to retire back in March. The government had seen fit to have these places of learning open for the key workers children. With no curriculum for the students to follow it was up to him to engage them in any subject of his or their choosing. The class size was a lot smaller, he had found them to be very respectful for their age group. 

The classroom door was open.  It was a relief to have some of the windows open as well to lessen the chance of infection, these were strange times and Twenty-Twenty would be remembered as a year the world was changed by an unseen enemy.

Though the students had gone home Edward took his time to remember how the class of eight had reacted to his question of remembrance of V.J. DAY. The look on their faces said they had no idea of such an occasion, though V.E. DAY this year had been given its special place in their minds and it was possible they would remember that in years to come.   

Knowing that Covid 19 would over shadow everything else in their lives for many years; he hoped they would also remember thousands of people died fighting a war for the freedom we enjoy in Britain today.                                         

Though Burma is far away it would have been a disaster had it fallen to the Japanese, for then it was still part of the British Empire. This had drawn the students into a good debate on the rights and wrongs of the empire and Edward had to steer the subject back to V.J. Day . Yes some of the students only aged fourteen had seen the Film Pearl Harbour and thought only the Americans had been at war with the Japanese.  It was easy to forget the grandparents of the generation he had been talking with hadn’t been to war to protect the British Isles with the exception of the Falklands. He had asked that question did any of them have a family member with a military back ground; this had been met with blank looks. It was interesting that one girl had asked, a question for which there’s no answer. Would the war have carried on if the Japanese had beaten the British in the conflict?

Dutifully wiping the desk with a disinfected cloth, collecting his jacket from the chair and covering his face it was time to leave. The cleaners signalled with thumbs up as he passed them in the corridors.   No car today. There was no point. It was only a forty minute walk, and now the shops had reopened there were less walkers and cyclists riding on the pavement, even the short cut through the park was now a pleasure.

The post person had managed to jam several large envelopes into the letter box, one of which was his pension application papers. From the study he watched the birds on the feeders, hanging from the apple tree grandfather had planted all those years ago on his return from Burma. Four generations of the Watts family had lived here; Edward and his father James were the only ones never to have fought in a war, though unlike his father Edward had escaped the governments’ national service programme.

 Pictures of family members hung from the walls, he took a while to study the one of grandfather and grandmother standing in front of the apple tree in their Sunday best. Sunlight glinting off his medals it wasn’t long after this picture was taken they had both passed away he couldn’t recall his exact age when that happened.     

Like the teenagers he’d spoken with today, he would have been in his early teens, he recalled being sad for a few days then his life had moved on and they would become a distant memory but the medals take pride and place in the glass cabinet along with other family memorabilia.                                                                                                                                                                                                     
Likewise his own mother and father passed away and for whatever reason he doesn’t always    remember to celebrate their lives.                                                                                                                                   

Try as he might he couldn’t get it out of his head that his grandfather had fought in a war that in future years the nation would probably forget. People just wouldn’t remember unless the media mentioned wartime Britain.  For Edward these things matter, mainly because his teaching subjects are military and social history from the nineteenth and twentieth century. Though it now seemed that no one had any interest because they have no connection with those times and the people that did care have all but passed away.                              

In twenty five years time it will be the hundredth anniversary of V.E.DAY or will Corona virus be the headline news? As they remember those who sadly passed away while Britain was in lockdown.  There is a small chance that one of his students today will remember the afternoon they talked of the forgotten war.      
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        

 About the auhtor

Mark Readman enjoys writing short stories for his own pleasure and of course sharing them with the writing group he attends once a month, which is most helpful as they are able to help each other with good writing practice. Cafelit has inspired him to share his work with a wider audience.


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