Regular followers of this blog will be keenly aware (and no doubt bored by) my slight obsession with the Sherman Tank. That fixation is linked mainly to my often mentioned family connection to 144th Regiment, Royal Armoured Corps - something that on this day in particular is in the forefront of my thoughts.
My collection very much started as my own memorial to my Grandfather - and this year I managed to 'finish' (where finish means collect all the models for) C Squadron, 144 RAC (with some HQ Squadron attachments).
I've still work to do. These models and the connection they represent are important to me, and as such I don't think they will ever be good enough. I have magnets to add to turrets, paint jobs to update and basing to fix, turret decals to update and base markings to add.
But as much pride as I can take in my modelling and painting efforts so far... And pride is the correct word for this and for me, as I have spent a lot of time and effort and thought on this personal memorial. I am acutely aware that for those men who lived fought and died in the tanks that these models represent, what they went through was anything but a game. Whether they gave their everything, or returned home a little - or a lot - different than when they left it. We owe those men, and all the men and women who have put their lives and sanity on the line for us innumerable times over the years, a huge debt.
I see a lot of comments about 'wearing my poppy with pride'. I find that to be quite unwholesome. I don't wear mine with pride. I wear it with sadness, with thanks and with a huge amount of respect for the sacrifices made. Pride is the wrong word. A friend made a comment a while ago that rang very true to me - there is a fine line between commemoration and triumphalism.
Those who sacrificed deserve to be commemorated. I'm thankful for their sacrifice - I am not proud of their need to sacrifice. Especially when it comes to the senseless slaughter of WW1 or those (many) wars fought for Imperialism and the benefit of someones pocket. Those who try to hijack and corrupt the sentiment for their own ends should be ashamed, and should be shunned.
So my thoughts today, with respect, with thanks and with a great deal of sadness, are for those men who fought beside my Grandfather and who did not return. And for that man, and many many other men and women, who have returned home and who's families and friends may not have recognised the person who returned. For the years of nightmares and the damage done physically and mentally. For those poor families who lost someone 'Missing, presumed killed'.