New column - 'Our Generation' from Daventry U3A members
Daventry U3A member Lyn Puleston launches our brand new 'Our Generation' column with his thoughts on the 'war on coronavirus'
Lyn Puleston was born in 1937 and lives in Daventry District. He is married to Brenda and they have two children.
Saturday, 8th May was the 76th anniversary of the Victory in Europe Day (VE day) and will be remembered by some of the older generation.
The war in Europe was over, the Nazi war machine had been vanquished, the hated Germans had once again been defeated for the second time within thirty years. Of course the world war was not over. War in the far East was still raging and it took another three months before World War 2 (WW2) came to an end on 15th August. Victory over Japan was declared with VJ day.
Although there have been outbreaks of conflict in Korea, Vietnam and the Middle East, they were relatively small wars compared with the world war of 1939 to 1945.
But now once again the world is at war. This is a different type of war in which the whole human race is on the same side fighting an invisible enemy which cannot be fought with conventional weapons. In WW2 the vast majority of the casualties were taken by those in their 20s and 30 who were in the armed services. In this war it has been the old and the vulnerable. The civilian casualties in WW2 were highest among the poor because they lived in and around the areas of the docks and factories that were bombed. This was particularly so in London’s East End. In this war it has again been the poor not only in wealth but also in health who have been particularly affected.
During WW2 there were many restrictions imposed upon us. There was the blackout at night. Anyone showing a light could be fined. There were no street lighting and no church bells There was a shortage of almost everything as all resources were allocated to the war effort. Food rationing was the most severely felt by everybody. Clothes were also rationed. Make do and mend was the theme. Petrol was only available for those who had to make essential journeys. Driving at night was particularly hazardous. Very few people went on holiday. Seaside resorts on the south and East costs were in the front line. On the beaches there were rusting barbed wire defensive structures. It was almost impossible get near the sea for a swim. Just about the only people who went abroad were those in the armed forces, and they did not go for the purpose of a holiday.
Unlike lockdown, we were not confined to our homes and we could socialise with our friends and neighbours which people did. However, getting to see family or friends living at a distance was very difficult. Lockdowns on the other hand have virtually imprisoned us in our homes. Isolation from our friends and family has been for most the hardest thing about the pandemic. This has particularly applied to the most vulnerable who have been shielding for the past year, fearful of going out. In contrast to the war there have been no shortages apart from initially when there was a run on some very essential supplies notably toilet rolls. This was very quickly resolved.
Under lockdown we have been able go shopping for essential items and although non-essential shops have been shut, it has been possible to get many things online. We have been able to go out for exercise and those with gardens could enjoy that facility, but those living in flats in towns and cities with no where to sit out or for children to play it has been particularly onerous.
Once again it has been the poorest of society who have suffered the most.
Although VE and VJ day brought an end to the fighting and there was a great feeling of relief, we lived with severe austerity for quite a number of years after the war ended. Rationing of some items of food went on until 1953. For a while bread was rationed. Sweet rationing was lifted and then re-imposed. Petrol rationing continued until 1950 . Unless you required a car for your work you were unable to buy a new one. Most of those manufactured in the 40s went for export to help with our balance of payments. Britain having had to borrow massively during the war was virtually bankrupt.
The Coronavirus pandemic has caused the government to again borrow on a huge scale not seen since WW2, but with interest rates at unprecedented lows, there does not seem to be any requirement at the moment to tighten our belts. The debt will have to be addressed, but it will probably be our children and grandchildren who will pay for it.
Although the fighting stopped in 1945 we were very soon into the cold war with the erstwhile ally the Soviet Union always a threat to the western allies in Europe. On the other side of the world a local hot war broke out in Korea in 1950 between the communist North and the American supported South. Also the war in Vietnam. The possibility that these wars might escalate into wider wars was of continuing concern. The threat of communism and nuclear war continued until the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1990.
Although currently we seem to be winning the war against Covid 19 in this country with a successful vaccination programme, elsewhere the virus war is still raging particularly in India. We may get to the stage like in 1945 when we feel the war has been won.
However, the government has warned us of possible further waves to come, and the epidemiologists say that we will only be safe when all are safe.
We may well have to learn to live with the threat of this virus for many years to come.