I will not be going to the Remembrance Service at our local War Memorial today. I rarely do. Not because I don’t respect our fallen heroes, for I most certainly do. What keeps me away is that every time I do go I come closer and closer to interrupting and asking the chap leading proceedings about the ones that always seem to be left out. The ones we don’t remember. The ones we choose to forget. Those who are not worth remembering. Those who do not count.
The last time I did attend, the Mayor and the leaders of three of the churches in town all waffled on for ages about how we, as good Christians, fought gallantly against the foe. The only hope for a peaceful future was for everyone to all sign up to leading a good Christian life. Which, to me at least, seemed to ignore the fact that the Germans were also Christian. I also recall a good few medals won in the Northern Ireland troubles between two different Christian communities, and the Argentines too were Christian. We were preached at too about how brave little England stood alone defending freedom and civilisation. But England was not alone. The Welsh, Scots and the Northern Irish were all there. Even some volunteers from the Irish Republic. Australian troops fought too, Canadians, New Zealanders, Indians, Pakistanis, Poles, Czechs, Slovaks, Romanians, French, Belgian, Dutch, South Africans , Kenyans, West Indians and many many more.
The fact is that not everyone fighting on the Allied side were Christians. I had, not many weeks before, come across the graves of eight soldiers in their own small section of Brecon Cemetery. War graves. All eight from the Indian sub continent who died in our war against the Axis. I have written about them previously. And certainly Sergeant Benjamin F. Goldsmith who I had been researching just a few days before was not being remembered.
Goldsmith had been a Rear Gunner in 149 Squadron of the RAF. On the night of the 6th of June 1942 he was on the way to Essen in a Stirling bomber when it was shot down by a German Night-fighter. Six of the crew perished immediately. The Mid Upper Gunner parachuted safely and was then captured. He spent the rest of the war as a PoW. Goldsmith also landed safely. but manager to evade capture and returned to Britain at the end of August 1942. He rejoined his squadron shortly after and continued to serve as a Rear Gunner.
On the night of the October 2nd 1942 he was again the rear gunner in a Stirling bomber, R9167 call sign OJ-N, which took off at 19:30 from RAF Lakenheath to bomb Krefeld in Germany. At around 21:30 they were intercepted by a Messerschmitt Bf110 night fighter over Horst flown by Oberleutnant Hans-Dieter Frank and his radar operator/rear gunner Unteroffizier Erich Gotter. They jettisoned the bombs but it made little difference. The Bf110 attacked once more and the Stirling crashed in flames. None of the crew survived the crash. They are all buried together in Jonkerbos War Cemetery.
I wondered just how many of the great and good telling us all about remembering the fallen would have climbed back into the cold lonely rear turret of a heavy bomber to continue to play their part in the war against Germany. Night after night with shells exploding all around, the constant threat of a sudden Night-fighter attack, the perils of rough weather, risks of aircraft failure and collisions in the dark skies. Night after night the bone numbing -30 degree cold and eight hour long trips where a moment of inattention could bring death to your crew mates as well as yourself. Night after night when pals in other aircraft failed to return, and in Goldsmith’s case, members of his own crew. Benjamin Goldsmith did that, and they chose not to remember him. Why? Well simply because he wasn’t a Christian, he was a Jew. Don’t get me wrong here, I don’t think this was deliberate. No. but it is just casually not bothering to know what was actually going on. A presumption that their limited understanding is all there was to know. That too is a deliberate choice though, and there is no excuse for it. It shows absolutely no respect. So I will stay at home today, and not risk upsetting anyone.