On Armistice Day I remembered my mum’s dad; a well-read and well-loved man, amateur actor and architect, who ended up spending most of his life in Zambia, Central Africa.
He was somewhat of a raconteur; telling tales of joining an army regiment based on which one wore the most eye catching hats on parade and drank at a club for veterans called the MOTH club.
The Memorable Order of Tin Hats club had been established in the 1920s and still has clubs (known as shell holes) across Southern Africa.
Veterans (both men and women) of the Boer Wars and both World Wars became members… and not just Allied but even those of former enemy forces.
Values such as comradeship, mutual help and self-sacrifice bonded members and when I used to spend time with my grandad there I felt myself in a place where the horrors of war had been witnessed and experienced but solidarity could be found.
Growing up I saw more black veterans join the club, younger soldiers of more recent wars. Now I’m working in a therapy service I see the importance of bringing people with similar experiences together, like group therapy or support groups where there is unspoken understanding.
My grandfather was curious and saw the importance in telling our stories. Usually I wear a white poppy, representing my hope that we can have other futures than wars but this year I wore a Black Poppy Rose. This commemorates the involvement of many nations worldwide in war efforts including Africans, West Indians and Pacific Islanders. When I read memorials saying ‘Lest We Forget’ the Black Poppy Rose reminds me how much I do not know about the scale of war – including in my own lifetime – and that I cannot remember the sacrifices I have never learnt about.
Written by Geraldine Montgomerie-Greenwood