Seventy years ago today World War II was declared.
I am strictly speaking not a baby boomer as I was born during World War II and even have a memory of the end of the war. Looking back, there is no doubt World War II profoundly affected all of us for years to come.
Take two men: my father, and a neighbour of ours in Wollongong in the 1970s.
That is my father on the left, but the person on the right is not our neighbour Willy, but rather a person – and curiously a Chinese person which Willy, a Prussian, was not – in the uniform of a lieutenant of the Wehrmacht. However, Willy was a lieutenant in the Wehrmacht and such a picture sat on the dresser in Tilly and Willy’s bedroom. Willy was on the Russian Front. Of 1,000 nine (including Willy) got back home. “It was all stupid”, Willy would say to my father as they sat together swapping war memories. Willy’s war was certainly rougher than my father’s, as my father served most of it in Richmond, Melbourne and Cootamundra, only getting to Papua in the last year or two of the war and then just in Port Moresby where he was on RAAF ground crew.
How we were all caught up in this!
As my mother wrote about thirty years after the war:
The night was still. The stars and the moon shone brightly on a troubled world. War in Europe; the second time in a quarter of a century. France was again echoing to the sound of German guns and the rest of the world paused waiting–for what? In an Australian city the young woman was waiting also–for the commonplace, the everyday miracle–the coming of a wanted child.
The curtains stirred as the wind whispered gently and everything seemed poised listening. The child in the womb stirred, waking the sleeping woman. The whispers grew stronger and she knew this day her babe would be born. What did life hold for this child already loved? What lay ahead, not in the dim distant future, but in the now–the immediate, with this world so shatteringly troubled. The mother trembled and prayed for peace in this babe’s time and a better world for the young to live and grow in bodily and in spirit… Of all the miracles of science in this twentieth century none can surpass the miracle of begetting and the birth of a wanted child…
That day in 1940 the child was born–a girl–bringing with her all the tenderness of love that one small babe has brought over so many hundreds of years.
Shortly after, the father in the full flush of manhood with hundreds of others became a number in the R.A.A.F. The next six years held strife and fear, home-comings and leavings, waiting, hoping, praying while free peoples everywhere struggled to regain seemingly lost power and prestige against overwhelming odds. He, the father, served his country faithfully and well through the long dreary years. At home his small daughter grew, and, as it is with children, accepted the world around her. Mummy, Grandpa, Grandma, her big brother, and the baby brother who came later, and the father who appeared sometimes.
Sadly that girl was to die just six and a half years after the war ended.