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This year Armistice Day is next Wednesday. It is always the 11th November of course, commemorating the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month in 1918 when the Armistice ended the horror that was World War One. Remembrance Sunday is always the second Sunday in November, when we remember both World Wars and many other conflicts since. This year is the 75th anniversary of the end of the Second World War, with the surrender of Japan on 15th August (VJ day). Germany had already surrendered on 8th May (VE day)

Over the years we hear of the sacrifice that millions of men and women have made on the battlefield – losses that, like ripples in a pond, spread out to their husbands, wives, mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers and friends. Malachi prophesied that Elijah would come in the last days and turn the hearts of the children to their fathers. Remembrance Sunday is certainly part of that prophesy; it is not trivial or unimportant. We hear the words of poets and soldiers, the songs of musicians and singers, see the paintings of artists imploring us to remember them. So, this year who will you be remembering? When we stand at 11am on Sunday for a two-minute silence (and I hope you will stand in respectful silence) what names will you reflect on, whose life will you give thanks for?

Grandad Dowell, India 1915

I will be remembering my mother and father, who both served in World War Two, and survived, then brought me into the world and eventually into the Church. I forget too easily that if they had not accepted The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in 1957, probably I would not later. They married during WW2, 18th December 1942. I will remember Grandad Dowell, who served in the Army in India in WW1, and Grandad Marshall, who was a steam train driver in WW2. They all survived, but I will also remember Great Uncle James Crawford, who died at sea in WW1.

In my last post I mentioned that my mother joined the ATS and served as an army driver in WW2 (the same assignment as the then Princess Elizabeth, though I don’t think they met!). I didn’t say how this unlikely role came about. She had always wanted to drive but as a working class Glaswegian lass the opportunity to learn was remote. One day she was in the barracks with a group of fellow ATS women, when an officer came bursting in “I need a driver” he said. No response. “It’s urgent” he said. After a second or two my mother raised her hand and volunteered. She had never driven in her life before but how difficult could it be? She’d watched others and it looked easy enough. She managed to start the engine, and somehow got into second gear. But after half a mile driving at thirty miles an hour in second, and with erratic steering, the officer stopped the car. He turned in exasperation to my mother, who immediately burst into floods of tears. His heart was softened and instead of putting her on a charge, he arranged for her to be transferred to a driver/mechanic course.

Mum ATS Southampton 1942

On such impetuous chances lives are saved or lost, destiny calls and futures change. It was the same sudden impulse, which we recognise as inspiration, that brought mum and dad into the Church, taking my sister Lesley and me with them. I might post that story one day.


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