A few years ago I was interviewed by a journalist whilst attending the Marx Oration at Highgate Cemetery. When I explained about the WWII service of my maternal grandfather – Arthur Gibson – he was very respectful and a little shocked! He knew that the fighting in the North Atlantic between the British Royal Navy and the forces of Nazi Germany was bitter – with the Nazis routinely machine-gunning British sailors whilst in the water. Unlike in the US, however, British people are quiet and reserved and in the old days never celebrated war. It is only in this modern era where our military has been hijacked by governments with rightwing agendas, that we see this childish elugising of war. Arthur Gibson – like many working class men of his day was a staunch Socialist and supported a left-leaning Labour Party (which many perceived as Communist). It was through his actions, and tens of thousands like him, that the Nazis were prevented from invading the UK from the north.
My Mum (Diane Wyles) has kept this news paper from the 1940’s because her Dad as a sailor is featured in an article. When not fighting in the North Atlantic, the crew of the minesweeper HMS Beaumaris Castle would be invited to Cheltenham – the place whose people had adopted them during WWII. My maternal grandad – Arthur Gibson – kept the sea lanes open for the Atlantic Conveys taking aid to our allies the USSR. When I was at the Soviet War Memorial a few years ago (in London), the Russian Ambassador stated that as long as Russia exists, the Russian people will will never forget how the only real allies of the Soviet Union during WWII was this small island called Great Britain – who was standing alone against the might of Nazi Germany! My grandad survived the North Atlantic – but thousands did not. It is a British sacrifice played down in the UK because of its association with the Soviet Union. It is shameful to consider that brave men like Arthur Gibson were never allowed to attend the official Remembrance Sundays – a policy of exclusion endorsed by the rightwing British Legion. Today, those who are still alive (Arthur Gibson passed in 1997) attend the Soviet War Memorial in London. Only President Putin of Russia has recognised their bravery by issuing medals in recent years.