The War Generation

Air Commodore Kit North-Lewis

This weekend my father, who served in the Royal Navy for 13 years, told me a story of the time he was on a Frigate that responded to an SOS from a Russian trawler up near the Arctic circle. He spent 12 hours trapped in a freezing bow compartment because the spray from the huge waves of the storm that had crippled the trawler froze as it hit the deck and encased the entire ship in a thick layer of ice thereby sealing the deck hatch of his compartment. The ice also made the ship top heavy and so it rolled and pitched even more than usual as it raced to the rescue. . . . it must have been a bit like being locked in a large freezer cabinet strapped to a rollercoaster. The ice was later cut off with a steam hose, but whilst the ship was under full power, mundane tasks like freeing him and a couple of colleagues had to wait. My father loved his time in the Navy and perhaps if it had not been for my appearance would have made a life’s career of it.

This morning on the train into London I was reading the obituary of Air Commodore Kit North-Lewis who commanded tank busting planes during World War 2 and led an amazing life in service of his country. I couldn’t help notice the contrast to his military exploits and his civilian life: “In retirement from the RAF after 1971 he was director of the Society of British Printing Ink Manufacturers for 12 years”. It made me wonder how my father had re-adjusted to normal life and running production lines for Ford. The overwhelming majority of us in the ‘developed’ world have never had the sort of experience or trauma the generation ahead of us did and our career and life expectations must, at times, seem trite to them.

And it’s not just generational. Again, just this morning the woman who runs our Polish business was in London going over our plans for her market next year. She grew up under communism in a small Warsaw flat and I know a little of hardships that she and her colleagues lived under and as she spoke I was struck, as I always am, by a totally different tone, where new ideas and new ways are welcome and the positive aspects of economic change and globalisation are championed, not it’s drawbacks.

The obituaries in the national newspapers throughout Europe are a reminder that the war generation are dying out fast now, and whilst our colleagues from countries blessed with less peace and (on the whole) justice may have experienced their own difficult times, most of us working today in the ‘West’ have not. I am pretty certain that we see and appreciate less because of that.

[tags] Edelman Poland, Air Commodore Kit North-Lewis [/tags]


Categories Technology

1 thought on “The War Generation

  1. Slightly off-topic here but what really sickens me to the bottom of my stomach is when I hear news reports of British youths conning and stealing from defenceless OAPs to make a few quid.

    They have no appreciation of the hardship, sacrifice and terrible loss of life the war generation endured to make it possible for this generation and future generations to lead a civilised life.

    You’re absolutely right us Westerners (baby boomers, Gen Xers and Gen Yers) have no idea what it’s like to suffer such hardships. I was reading this article yesterday that says that Gen Yers are a bunch of narcissists that wouldn’t be able to cope should times get tough:


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