My father was a Prisoner of War, captured at the fall of Tobruk, Libya, in June, 1942, probably not too long after the photograph above was taken in North Africa. I have no idea who took this picture…could have been his brother who was also there, or another friend. Like many others who were at the “sharp end” of the fighting, my father never spoke much about the war.
I remember fragments of conversations, about escape attempts, about seeing friends dying next to you, about giving German guards a hard time… but not much more than that. Also, we, the kids, didn’t ask too much about it, either. He was a POW after all, so he missed the big ones, D-Day, Sicily, Monte Casino. I think we preferred to get our war stories from the glorified heroism of the movies and comic books.
As kids, we didn’t appreciate the sacrifice made by my father, or the thousands of others captured at Tobruk, who wasted away three years of their lives behind the barbed wire of Nazi prison camps. We were dumb kids. We made no attempt to understand Dad. And, as the world changed, it seemed, looking back, that he couldn’t get to grips with that change. But when I think about it, maybe he understood more than we gave him credit for.
I wonder what he would make of the world we inhabit today. Compared to the post-war years, the 50s and 60s, the world of today looks to me like a lunatic asylum with the lunatics running the show. But I am now older than my father was when he died, so perhaps it’s just me who doesn’t understand things.
I guess we are all prisoners of the past, no matter how much we are told to live in the present.