Yesterday afternoon I was doing some work in the house and listening to the football on Radio Scotland. The featured match was Hibs v Inverness Caley Thistle and as usual at this time of year a two minute silence was observed before kick-off. I always think about my paternal grandfather during these times.
I wear a silver ring on my left hand that my grandfather made out of a South African coin at the end of the so-called Great War. It has ‘11.11.18’ engraved on it beside his initials ‘M J O’D’. His experience of that war can only be described as horrific as he watched many of his friends die in trenches or be killed trying to cross the ‘no mans land’ between the trenches. He was wounded and I remember seeing the marks on his body caused by the shrapnel, some of which was still in his body.
His view was that World War 1 was entirely avoidable and caused by greed. He did not think very highly of Earl Haig and his strategy/tactic of ‘attrition’ which can be summed up as it doesn’t matter how many of our soldiers die as long as the enemy loses more.
He returned home after the war as a radical and, like many other Scots, commited to doing everything he could to make sure that ordinary men and women would never have to take up arms against each other again. Little did he know that just over 20 years later he would see his son join the army to take part in a war he supported, the war against facism.