Grantham Journal column: The price of freedom

Peter Clawson.

Peter Clawson.

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How times change and public opinion with them, I thought, on reflection this week.

As someone whose father, stepfather and other relatives suffered lifelong crippling injuries in the Second World War, I have often wondered what would have happened to them if they had fled the country to escape the hostilities?

If caught, would they have faced a firing squad as deserters?

Had they actually escaped, leaving the rest of us to endure the bombing our village received from Germans mistaking Caythorpe for RAF Cranwell, would they have been reviled as cowards?

Maybe, but that’s not how it turned out, because my two dads stayed on and fought with the forces which eventually defeated Hitler and his Third Reich.

My real father was a despatch rider left for dead near Dunkirk.

He survived to be thrown into the last cart heading for the beach, where two men either side of him died from aircraft strafing bullets. Then he was saved from an overturned rescue ship and spent a year in hospital in England, but never fully recovered, his leg being seriously damaged for the rest of his life.

My mother parted from him while I was still a child and I never met him until I was 50 years old.

She remarried and I heard the story of my stepfather’s wartime ordeal as an ambulance driver saving aircrew of crashed planes on local airfields. On a mission further afield, he fell off a mountainside damaging both feet so badly he was never able to walk properly or run again.

Neither of my two dads considered themselves to be heroes but felt they did the right thing in fighting for their country.

All I can add is that it is thanks to them and the thousands of other men and women and children who died, suffered and stood up to the Nazis, that we enjoy the freedom we have today.