When my oldest brother was a young man, he became engaged to a girl from Southampton, England. They never married, but Terri was absorbed into my family. I’ve always considered her a sister.
I learned about WWII and what this country escaped when Mom and I stayed with Terri’s family in Southampton. Looking for a specific gift for my father, Terri’s brother-in-law, Jimmy, walked with me to show the way, pointing out historical markers and uncovered Roman ruins. We turned a sharp corner around a lovely, ancient church, and I stopped when I saw blocks and blocks of modern, and IMHO, ugly stores and buildings.
While I did the fish-gape thing, Jimmy explained that the entire area had been hit by incendiary bombs, everything roaring sheets of flames. He’d been part of the fire brigade and also with the Home Guard, paroling the area during the day, carrying a carved-wood rifle because they had no weapons and wanted to be seen wielding something when Hitler’s observation planes flew overhead.
Terri was four and has clear memories of the bombings, has always been slender due to childhood malnutrition. In the US, we rationed everything, but in England, they had less and often nothing. Terri said one of her fondest memories of luxury during that time was when her father would bring his children steaming cups of hot water on freezing mornings. There was no tea.
The previous was written because of my only gripe about the Darkest Hour. I know it was all about Churchill, but I felt the absence of the honor that must be paid to those who endured the blitz. What they survived deserves to be highlighted at every opportunity. It is briefly shown in the “tube” scene, where Londoners relay their courage to fight, to never surrender, and made their determination absolutely clear to Churchill. Instead of opening the film with stock film of soldiers, I wish they would have shown some photos of the devastation of the blitz.
Elizabeth II is one of the last of that generation. It’s well known how her father decided to stay in London, keep his children with him, how his heir contributed to the war effort. You can bet that if her country is threatened by invasion again, that no matter how old she gets, she’ll be at the shoreline, just as Elizabeth I was to face down the Armada.
So I honor what the Brits survived. Yes, the US fought two wars at the same time. Yes, we rationed everything and lost family members, but I resent all the obnoxious cracks about America winning wars for others. The Brits were toughing it out long before the US arrived on their shores, and they didn’t boast about their unequaled measure of courage.
It was satisfying to see Gary Oldman win a SAG last night. As much as I like John Lithgow, I didn’t like how he and The Crown writers portrayed Churchill. On the other hand, the Darkest Hour shows all sides of Winnie’s mercurial personality and his puckish wit with the wonderful “Will you would stop interrupting me while I am interrupting you!” tongue-lashing. That is Winston’s quickness, his brilliance. To know him is to read his book My Early Life. After seeing this film, I think I’ll reread it for the third time.
M.L Rigdon (aka Julia Donner)
Follow on Twitter @RigdonML