THE DISAPPEARANCE OF EX SERVICE ASSOCIATIONS?
R.E 25th October 2009
For full story see BBC web page http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/8324498.stm
The Normandy Veteran's Association (NVA) recently held what it has said will be its last ever annual public event - a remembrance service at Westminster abbey.
The years have seen the number of NVA branches dwindle as the now elderly heroes, who were involved in the bitter fighting to liberate Europe between June 1944 and May 1945, have laid their standards to rest on church walls across the country.
I remember watching one of my own relatives, the NVA standard bearer for the Amlwch branch of the NVA, holding the NVA standard for the last time for the whole length of the 2004 service, aged 82. The standard was then placed upon the church wall - never to be removed.
These men, who have been through so much together, always had each other to talk to about the things they had experienced and had to do. Each of them could always look forward to annual gatherings, events and meetings on community and national levels. Now for many of them a circle of brotherhood and comradeship has ended.
Speaking about NESA (the association) during its height - Arthur Lane once said - "It was a comradeship, without which many of us would not have survived"
Speaking about the NVA to the BBC, Normandy veteran Charles Jeffries said:
"The powers-that-be are saying this will probably be the last one, and to me that is absolutely horrible, because we remember people in the first war, we remember people in our particular war we were in, but there's always these other wars going on,"
"And the veterans themselves, you will find they don't discuss their feelings or what happened with their families. My daughters and my nephew never knew what action I had been in.
"You discuss among yourselves, the veterans, but certainly not with family."
For many of the older generations who have experienced war; clubs and associations, annual events and services are special to them. It gives them a chance to meet their old friends and to remember those who didn't survive - together as a group. It is a vital social network for them.
As the years pass by and these old soldiers, sailors and airmen 'fade away', the clubs and associations become smaller, and having fewer members often struggle to continue. Many WW2 era associations are disbanding at a rapid rate. Recently NESA were informed that the FEPOW association for Wales no longer exists.
What this means is that the 'few' who continue have nowhere to go, no-one to meet and a deep sense of comradeship disappears overnight leaving many alone with their memories.
Perhaps the only answer is to appeal to the younger generations to help keep the clubs and associations alive by taking an interest and by joining them. By helping to run them and giving them a new lease of life - ensuring that these men (and women) have a network of comradeship until the last.
NESA would like to appeal to the younger ex service men and women across the country to join their local unit associations, join the PoW associations and the theatre of war associations. Keep them alive for the sake of the surviving heroes.
On the BBC Charles Jeffries claimed he wasn't a hero
"We like to go and remember those people we call heroes, we're not the heroes because we're still here"
Well I can tell you now Mr Jeffries - You ARE a hero!