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Sunday, July 19, 2009

No more heroes

I grew up surrounded by men who'd fought in either the First or the Second War. Some must have served in both. None of them talked about it much, partly because they had the traditional ambivalence of old soldiers and also presumably because they didn't wish to appear to be taking the limelight of somebody more worthy. Old combatants rarely show off about it. If anything they're slightly embarrassed to have survived. At his death at the age of 113 First World War veteran Henry Allingham was widely referred to as a hero. I'm sure he would have been appalled to be called any such thing. It seems that the less experience of military service anyone in the media has the more ready they are to dust off the h-word for anyone who's done what they would have modestly called their duty.