I just finished viewing this documentary, about a bunch of elite British Commandos who executed an amazingly brave (stupid?) and strategically incredibly important raid on a dock controlled by the Germans. The raid was so successful because it was “impossible”, and so brave, it has been called “the greatest raid of all time”.
The documentary did increase my awareness of the people who we barely hear about – the people on the front-lines, the ones protecting our borders and our shores.
But even more than that, what struck me was the absolutely unbelievably simple and common lives that these incredibly brave men went on to live. And how easily these men, who are now either dead or in their eighties and nineties, spoke about that night at St. Nazaire, about an extraordinary night that probably definitely changed the future of the world.
These couple of hundred men, who had studied psychology, french literature, art and architecture, amongst others, would go on to wreak havoc amongst thousands of German soldiers on that night, and infuriate Hitler so much that he passed an order to shoot all Commandos in the future, treating them as “spies”. And then go on to live lives such that today, if you met them on the street, you would probably call them “Grandpa” (if you were of that kind) or “that-silly-old-fool-who-cant-cross-the-street-fast-enough-and-I-have-to-honk-8-times-before-he-lets-my-car-pass” (if you were what I think would be normal today).
I recently lost my grandfather. He was 75 years old. Which means he lived through the World War 2. He lived through the Indo-Sino conflict. He would have been affected by the Chinese invasion, which reached upto Tezpur (some 300 kms south-east of where I know he settled down). Knowing my grandfather, which of course is very little, he would probably have been involved in the evacuation efforts. We never really spoke about it, but I know he had participated in many protests, marches and humanitarian efforts.
Now, all those stories are gone, probably forever.