My grandfathers hardly ever talked about their service during the war. But it affected them deeply.
Most war poetry has been dulled by GCSE syllabus drudgery , but some of it is still very powerful. Here is a poem written by Flt Lt Rupert 'Tiny' Cooling, which he recited during an excellent BBC documentary on Wellington Bombers (sadly, I think, not still on the iplayer). He cried as he read it. So did I.
This muster of names,
This directory of faceless, formless beings
Suffocates the mind.
Is it solely a tabulation as on
pages of Smith's in volume S to Z?
Or a company of friends
Amidst a legion of Strangers?
In the quest, shadows emerge,
Forgotten faces relive
Brief moments of shared experience
And call upon yet others to be identified …
Now what became of him? And him?
And their names too are
carved in the roster.
I dare not look for my own,
it should be there.
Our Flight Commander, Hinks,
Quiet Ronnie Frost (he joined with me),
Young Naylor who was lost in the North Sea …
Was he twenty when he came into my room
and cried like a baby the night Bob Hewitt died,
leaving a pregnant wife?
Three weeks later
I helped to clear his room,
And found his Bible by his bed.
And, to cheer you up after that: