Saturday, October 04, 2008

THE GREATEST GENERATION



My dear mother in law May Beatrice died on Thursday night at the age of 97. 
When Tom Brokaw wrote a book entitled The Greatest Generation in admiration of those who grew up in the years before and following the 1929 Wall Street crash it created some controversy and discussion.
But as an amateur historian and son in law there is no discussion from me our May was a member of the greatest generation. She was one of Britain's heroic generation that saved this country. 
Born in 1911 as a young child she saw her father go off to fight in that 'Great War to end all wars'. He never returned to 'a land fit for heroes' with his DSM, but was lost in the North Sea serving on the submarine HMS G8.
Leaving school at 14 May lived through the tough times of the Depression and then watched her husband go off to fight in another terrible war. She herself spent the Second World War working in a munitions factory near Portsmouth, not exactly the safest place in England. 
May struggled to bring up her children during the post war years of austerity, and in her later years went on to nurse an ailing husband till she was well into her 90s.
Only in the last few years did May enjoy a little of the luxury and rest she so richly deserved.
May was always grateful for any small task that was done for her, and lived her life on three principles:
1) There is good in everyone.
2) Always pay your bills as soon as you get them.
3) Never borrow money.

The comparatively easy life we lead today was built on the toil and sacrifice of her generation, and the world would be a happier place if we could follow her simple principles. 

13 Comments:

OpenID maxine said...

Oh, Norman, I am so sorry to read this news. My thoughts are with you and Diana and the rest of your family.
I know that your mother in law had been ill for some time, but I felt that I had got to konw her a little bit via your blog and emails. And I fully agree with the sentiments in your post. My own daughters are both interested in history and Cathy is always reading books or watching DVDs about this period. It is great that the next generation should be aware and conscious of the sacrifices of previous generations.

I am so glad May enjoyed her last few years in the way that you describe.
My thoughts are with you.

11:12 AM  
Blogger Philip said...

I am sorry to hear of this, Norm. Your affection and admiration for May Beatrice rang loud and clear from earlier posts in which you wrote of her. If she managed to cling to the first of her principles in this world of ours, she must have been a strong and determined woman indeed.

11:28 AM  
Blogger Uriah Robinson said...

Thank you for your very kind words.

12:30 PM  
Blogger Mack said...

Sympathies on your loss Norman. I got a bit misty eyed reading your tribute to May because my parents are part of The Greatest Generation as well, something I came to really appreciate only later in life. The three principles on which May lived her life are the same values my parents lived by.

I am saddened when another from that generation passes; I'm not sure we will see their like again.

2:45 PM  
Blogger Uriah Robinson said...

Thanks Mack I agree we won't see their like again.

May took the place of my own mother, who died 10 years ago aged 88. My mother had a memory of being given tuppence by her brother who was wearing a blue uniform. I think walking wounded wore this to avoid being given white feathers for cowardice.
He was wounded twice but returned to France to die in the final assault on the Hindenburg Line at the end of September 1918, aged 19.

3:46 PM  
OpenID maxine said...

What a hero. They were all such heros, and gave us so much.

10:00 AM  
Blogger crimeficreader said...

Sorry, Norm, came late to this post and the circumstances. My heartfelt sympathies to you and Diana.

Your MIL is a force and example for our times, as you yourself has expressed on times.

She left a legacy we can all do well to remember. Let's allow her her mark and move on, in her memory, to make society better.

Above all, dear Norm & Diana, she will never be forgotten.

I feel for you both at this time.

1:50 PM  
Blogger Euro Crime said...

Many commiserations, Norman. Sorry to hear of your loss. What a lovely photo.

2:26 PM  
Blogger Mack said...

You're right Maxine, they were. And quiet about it. My father was a crew member of a B-24, was shot down, and finished the war as a POW. My mother worked in a munitions plant. Neither ever said much.

3:22 PM  
Blogger Uriah Robinson said...

Thanks to everyone for your comments.

Mack your father was a brave man to fly in the B24, those USAAF daylight raids on Europe had horrific losses.
You are right most of my parents friends and relatives especially those who had done great things in the war, one won the Croix de Guerre, never spoke about it. I dragged information from them when they were getting old and wanted someone to know before they died.

12:35 AM  
Blogger Kerrie said...

My sympathies too Norm. My parents are in their early 90s and have had the same lifelong principles. They have certainly seen such a lot of change!

1:54 AM  
Blogger Uriah Robinson said...

Thanks Kerrie.
I hope your parents have many more happy years together.
May's father enlisted in the Royal Australian Navy in Melbourne although he was from Gosport, Hampshire. He is listed on the Commonwealth War graves records as an Australian.
If he had survived the Great War, his sub went down in January 1918, they would have emigrated to Australia.

2:16 AM  
Blogger Kerrie said...

What an interesting link Norman. My father's surviving brother has died this week. He was in the airforce during the war. My father however was a baker and was declared an "essential service". That exemption had some rather unwanted consequences after the war when housing loans were available only to returned soldiers etc. Both his brothers went away to the war.

2:23 AM  

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