Retired Service People and Reminiscence

Discussion in 'Military History and Militaria' started by walter_mitless, May 1, 2007.

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  1. Elderly ex-service people, unfortunately suffering memory issues, sometimes only remember times, events and places from their military service. Like for instance: WW2. There are obviously many , many elderly folks with colourful service histories.

    This is not to denigrate any of today's armed forces, sailors, marines, soldiers, and airmen, indeed anyone serving the country, who are worthy of the highest regard.

    In advanced age, elderly folks may suffer from crippling health and memory problems. Reminiscence therapy plays a major part in their treatment and indeed, in their care. Their associations, or their personal past histories, might be able to provide fantastic reminiscence material and indeed, educate a lot of people in the process.

    Do members think that our elderly ex-service folk might contact the RBL, or their old associations? What advice would members be able to offer?

    Regards, walt
  2. In the last couple of years of his life, my grandfather (WWII RAF pilot) finally told me bits and pieces of his and my grandmother's (WRAF Sgt) service history. Even though he didn't say too much, it was a revelation to me and I've always thought it a terrible shame that so much history is dying with that generation.

    There will always be those, like my grandparents, who don't want to talk about it too much, but for those who do, if it's therapeutic for them and educational for the rest of us, it's a win / win situation.
  3. Dozy, m'dear - right as always! 8) :D

    Some of my very happiest times have been spent with senior uncles & aunts, grandparents, g-uncles etc. as they gently unpicked the locks on their service memories. :)

    Absolutely fascinating for me (and preserved as recordings, for those who come after) - and, so far as one may judge, very therapeutic for them. :D :roll:

    If only more of those dead-and-gone had written things down . . . :x
  4. I was lucky - my grandfather was a regular soldier who went back as far as the Boer War with places like Gallipoli and Salonika. Said nothing until one day I found a tin full of medals and bright ribbons. There was a man.
  5. oldbaldy

    oldbaldy LE Moderator Good Egg (charities)
    1. Battlefield Tours

    Any easy question but difficult to answer.

    I'm with SSAFA & meet a lot of these chaps on a daily basis.
    They go from one extreme to another. There are those who are members of their local TRBL, Regt Assn and other old comrades groups . Then there are others who want nothing to do with remembering it all.
    You can't go by their experiences either, someone who was on the Burma Railway might want to take part in everything whilst someone who was close to him in the camp might not. Likewise someone who never left Blighty might want to talk but the chap who was on the next desk will never talk or take part it anything.
    We always say you never forget your Regimental number but it surprising how many don't and it would also amaze how many are very vague about the units they served with & this means checking with Glasgow.
    I often arrange for old boys who's memory are going (short term memory loss) to have a visit from someone with a common interest but unfortunately you can't generalise.
    Each person has to be dealt with as an individual.
  6. There have been several projects in recent times along these lines, I have even done a little bit myself on this site.

    If you as say, you managed to record some wartime experiences of relatives, why not share them here? I just wished that I had taken more time to really talk to my father. I’m sure that sentiment will be echoed by a lot of us? Personally, I think this is an ideal forum to air and share these experiences. This is what we are, this is what we were and possibly, this is what are parents were.

    Just a thought.

    My little bit is here:-

    These were from the BBC:-
  7. What an encouraging response to this thread already.

    I have the tremendous privilige of working with older people every day, as a support worker . I confess to my agenda, namely that the older folks who experienced war and trauma, in many different ways, don't always have a voice, and so are not always heard. Many remain unseen and unnoticed. Many of them suffer in silence, with the inbuilt old steel, "never complaining". However, they do of course, feel things just like the rest of us.

    The therapeutic value of reminiscence is judged to be highly under rated, and stimulation of the forgetful mind can reap massive rewards.

    I have recently met a gent who lost shipmates on HMS Gloucester, off Crete in 1941. Another gent was a prisoner of the Japanese. Another had traumatic experiences as a tankie on D-Day.Some want to remember, some would rather forget.

    I could go on, and on. My question about associations and the RBL was purely to seek opinion:eek:n how these older veterans could feel valued and not forgotten by their old units. Many of them remain modest and unnoticed.

    As "old baldy" says, one cannot generalise. Supporters are bound to uphold everyone's rights to individuality and identity, as well as supporting independence and choice. This is part of a support worker's role. I have also to ensure, that confidentiality is maintained at all times.

    However, if anyone has any >>personal<< knowledge of the following stations/units/histories, please let me know. many thanks.

    RAF Grange over Sands O.C.T.U early 1940's
    Tidworth, specifically the Field Bakeries, early 40's
    RAF Bridgnorth, 1940's

    Many thanks.
  8. This is an interesting thread.

    We do video veterans who travel with us. We are about to release a DVD of some of the interviews, called "When you go home".

    But what if, on a national scale, we encouraged everyone to collect via webcam or whatever the reminiscences of veterans? The BBC collected stories via their "Peoples War" site. This would be video. Not only would it be a national archive of Remembrance but also a very useful source for the future.

    Any thoughts?
  9. Ironically, you've hit a couple of things with regards to this. My grandfather served with the artillery during WW2 and never spoke of his experiences and never even collected his medals and recognition for what happenned. He died when I was 14 and never got to chat with him about what he went through. Going through his stuff we found a story from an american that detailed his journey to the far east, his exposure to combat and then the time he spent as a japanese prisoner of war which included working on the Burmese railroads. Although he didn't want to talk about it we felt that the right people should know of his story and posted it here..

    It's quite interesting and really makes you wonder whether if you were in the same situation. Would you have handled it?

    His medals now take pride of place in my house with his service documents and pictures. There are agreed too many unsung heroes.
  10. I had the privelege of having a grandfather who was in the Machine Gun Corps in WW1 who was awarded the MM. He never divulged why he got it and his family have tried on numerous occasions to obtain his citation without much success. As young lad I would sit for hours listening to his stories of his life in the trenches on The Somme and Ypres. He was a person I held in high esteem and maybe it was influence that made me decide to enlist as a 15 year old.

    Later in life, I met a chap who was in the 11th Hussars as a proper "horseman", the tales he told me were amazing.
    On the downside, my father in law, who again was a great bloke, was captured in Burma by the Japs and he suffered nightmares and was very reluctant to tell any of his experiences.

    I make a point of listening to our elder ex-servicemen with my full attention when they wish to speak of their experiences. Sadly there are not many of them left and they are becoming a very rare breed.
  11. That sounds like a wonderful idea! In this 'PC' country, however, it'll probably go down like a lead balloon with those who have the power to make it happen... :roll:

    I know that current Regiments and Corps have links with their Associations, but what of old chaps who aren't members? Would it be viable / in anyone's interest to advertise unit open-days etc specifically to old folks' homes, drop in centres and so on to encourage interaction between the old and the young?
  12. I think this is a great idea and perhaps one that could be put too the BBC as without doubt they do have a veritable archive and many good resources.

    My grand fathers both passed away when i was just a child and before i enlisted alway felt sorry they never got a chance to see me serve and for me too hear there stories as they had both been in both the great war and the second world war.

    I for one think that the youth of this country gain an real education in history when it is told 1st hand.

    edoted for mongo spelling
  13. I remember with amazement sitting as a small boy, listening to my grandfather and great-uncle telling tales of what they'd seen in WW1 and, in my g-uncle's case, the Boer War; and the fact that both of them, in early boyhood, had actually listened to very old men who had been drummer-boys at Waterloo in 1815!

    The continuity of services memories is desperately important; and recordings are essential if we're not to lose an incredible amount of priceless material.

    After all, even the youngest participants in WW2 are now well into their 80s, and will not be with us forever; and their memories may fail them, or become unreliable, long before they shuffle off . . . .

    Makes one think.
  14. Sympathetic_Reaction

    Sympathetic_Reaction LE Book Reviewer

    My Grandfather never mentioned any of his war time service...i know a little from my Grandmother....normal thing..

    Headed somewhere hot (Africa) in about 1940, captured in 1941, POW for the rest of the war, family thought he was dead etc etc.....

    How the hell he survived i have no idea...for such a quiet man when i knew him I wouldn't have thought he'd have had the strength.

    But i do have his diary (or at least Grandma does) which he kept throughout the war and as a POW....problem is it's all in here's me struggling with a damn annoying language (mutations...damn mutations) so i can eventually read it.

    I'm expecting to be weeping like a small child and have a lump as big as a tennis ball in my throat when i do.

  15. What a terrific incentive you have to learn Welsh!

    It may be very well worth it, in which case you'll be better off in two important respects.

    Keep at it . . . .