“I am one unified whole Me”
‘People do not decide their futures, they decide their habits and their habits decide their futures’, said FM Alexander.
Information and knowledge are useful. Putting these into action is even more useful. Committing to doing this thinking-in-activity one, three, or ten times a day – then you’ll really start to notice the benefits.
As many of you know, one of Alexander’s major discoveries about us mammals is that the relationship between the head and spine govern the coordination of the rest of us. Yes – all of us! Physical, mental, emotional, spiritual – we don’t separate – its all one thing – our Self.
Leaf: part of a tree, with branches and roots – all one
“I am one unified whole Me”
Today is VE Day – Victory in Europe when the war in Europe ended 8th May 1945 as Germany made its unconditional surrender.
I want to tell you a story today. About a soldier who was in his early twenties, a Captain in the Indian Army. To be precise, he was the Commanding Officer of the 89th Indian Infantry Brigade, Indian Electrical Mechanical Engineers Mobile Workshop of the Seventh Indiian Division.
On the night of Tuesday 8th May 1945 he was on leave in London in Leicester Square, at the cinema with a girlfriend.
He had recently left ‘his’ men in Burma where he was in charge of a mobile workshop in the jungle. As a man of just 23 he was charge of a unit of 75 men. Of these 75 men, 3 were British – the three most senior positions including himself as Captain. The men who made up the majority of the army were volunteers from all over India. Sikhs, Muslims, Gujaratis and Punjabis. They were the largest army of volunteers the world had seen. There were as many languages and dialects as there were men – but everyone was required to speak Urdu.
This young Captain was from a privileged background and had attended a Public School as a child and grown up with a Nanny, a Chauffeur and a Butler. After school he had been an apprentice at Bristol Aero Engine Company and had joined the army of the Royal Deccan Horse Regiment. Their horses had recently been replaced by tanks.
He was good with his hands and had gone on a short technical course and began to know his way around under the bonnet and in the engine of cars, trucks and tanks. He had an easy camaraderie with the men he lead and served with. For 6 years he hardly spoke any English but knew Urdu fluently at this time.
He had a very hot, dusty and tiring time most days – working shirt-free in the hot sun, being bitten by insects and trying to do makeshift repairs to keep the 52 tanks on the track from Madras to Burma.
To suddenly find himself on leave and in Leicester Square in London must have been a strange experience. He was taken by air in a Cargo Plane – so the transition was quite swift. Not much time to adjust to the change in lifestyle, weather, circumstances and role.
Before he left Burma his troop had been caught up in a fight, not long after the Battle of the Admin Box where Japanese soldiers ambushed a field hospital and killed people indiscriminately. He had spent several long nights looking at the jungle with Nothing Happening. His imagination was on red-alert, he and his men were tired and scared.
One of his men was wounded by gunfire and later died in his trench right next to him. His attempts at first aid could not help the badly injured man.
He revisited this scene every night for the next 50 years.
He could remember some details as if he was still there. He did not talk about his experiences. He did not know how to stitch together the war experiences and ordinary life as a primary school teacher after the war. He felt divided and confused at times. He could not remember more than a handful of words of Urdu.
Nowadays there would be help offered to returning soldiers. Not then.
I wish I had been able to do some work with him and do what I can to help him towards restoring unity for his emotions, body and soul. To help bring him back together and up-to-date and let him leave these huge experiences safely in the past. I wish I had been able to stop his suffering of these nightmares and terrors. I was little and he was big.
On this particular day 8th May 1945 – in London he was in Leicester Square. In his own words “I went to see a film called The Fifth Chair – a marvellous comedy with George Burns. I loved going to the cinema – the fun of Donald Duck, the newsreel and the main feature. The organist coming up in front of the screen to accompany the silent films, and the shared emotions and experience of watching with a live group of fellow people.
That particular night, when I came out, reflecting on this film and the image of this actor as a baby – the lights outside in Leicester Square were on and bright!! No more blackout.
There was cheering and shouting.
Red double decker buses and black taxis were stationary among crowds of people dancing and hugging one another. There were people singing as if in a choir. It was a beautiful scene.
The War in Europe was over.”
This was my father’s experience of VE Day. Captain Peter Ewart Smith of the 7th Indian Army.
He would have been 100 years old this year, and lived in Bedfordshire much of his adult life. He was a school teacher in Great Barford and at Castle Lower School, Bedford. He married a school teacher and emigrated to New Zealand and had 3 children. After 8 years they returned to Bedford and had a further 2 more children. I am the youngest.
Some of you may see some parallels with Captain Tom who recently walked 100 laps of his garden to raise money for the NHS. I know I do.
I honour his experiences and that of all the soldiers and those affected directly and indirectly. I bow to their fate.