I've told this story before and I've no doubt that in years to come, I’ll tell it again; because we should never forget.
This is George the man who introduced me to hill walking when I was 15. We enjoyed fantastic long days in the Scottish Borders. St Abbs Head and the surrounding coastline was his favourite place. A kind and generous man, but with an unforgiving pace. I'm quite sure the stamina and pace I enjoy today stems from those formative years walking mile after mile after mile with George. Along the way he’d name every variety of tree and bush we’d pass as well as every bird that flew over us. A keen athlete in his day George had ran an amateur athletics club in his spare time and himself had raced into his late fifties.
George fought in the Second World War for his and our freedom with campaigns in North Africa and Italy. He died, fittingly, on November 11th 1993, 22 years ago, raking autumn leaves from his garden on a bright blue morning. He was fortunate, he had survived to live a long and full life, too many did not. George was fortunate also, for although the war had scarred him, it did not torment him, nor its memory become the focus of his life. Sadly for many they understandably never managed to move on from the horrors of war. The survivors of war should be remembered as well as those who lost their lives.
George had a wonderful sense of humour. He told me he’d applied to join the army in 1937 but was refused on account of his poor eyesight. However he told me the Chief of the British Army wrote to him in 1939 with the opening line; "Dear George, we’ve reconsidered your offer …" He also told me that when he ws sent to the south of England for his training, he and the other lads were issued with uniform and one very short lad shouted out, “These trousers are too tight sir”, “Too tight where?” came the reply, “Under the bloody arms sir” was the response.
Incidentally, the image you see was taken on the way up to Whinlatter when I brought George over to the Lakes for a visit two years before he died. We walked a few miles that day too.
So this weekend, as we freely walk, run, climb, cycle, swim, paddle or hand bike across this beautiful land of ours, stop a while and remember those who fought and those who died. We should never forget the likes of George and all those brave men, women and children like him, for as I was once reminded ...
“It wasn't like Dad's Army or Allo Allo Mark ... It was a disgusting and horrific mess where humankind butchered one another.”