12 November 2005
My mother's great uncle, photographed about 1901 during his service in the Anglo-Boer War of 1899-1902.
My father, a gunner in the Royal Artillery, photographed in 1941. He hand-painted the black and white image and sent it to my mother.
My mother's aunt, uncle and cousin. The photograph was taken in 1915 as my great-uncle went off to war. My maternal grandfather never returned from the trenches and this family became my mother's parents after her own mother died of influenza in 1920.
I have literally dozens of photographs from both sides of my family that were taken during the various wars that Britain waged. The earliest is a Daguerrotype taken shortly after the Indian Mutiny. They were all volunteers, except for my father who waited to be conscripted. Joining the army was a way to avoid the poverty of industrial Lancashire, and many of them took the option.
I was lucky to be born in the 1950s when working men had plenty of job oportunities and the standard of living for me and mine rose every year. We did not have to go off and fight the bosses' wars - we were the lucky generation.
Late last year I went back to Manchester for the first time in many years. Ancoats, Miles Platting and Newton Heath are as depressed and dead as they were when I left over a decade earlier. Now the choice is the dole, a Mickey Mouse training course or the army. The hand shandyists for war, some of whom have the temerity to place images of poppies on their sites, and others who talk glibly of fighting yet more wars, should be well pleased: we are back to the pre-war years in terms of economic security and they will have plenty of volunteers for their future wars.
I have had two operations in just over a year and my lungs are riddled with fibrosis. I will be lucky to reach pension age, always assuming that NewLab has not scrapped such things as mandatory retirement. Well, guess what, you cockroaches: I have three fine, strong sons and two of them are the great-grandsons of a man who rode with la division del sur during the Mexican Revolution. That's right, boys, he was one of Zapata's men. The two that live with me know what you are like because I have told them stories of my own life and stories that came down to me from my parents. They will live to see the day when your daughters are reduced to sucking dick on street corners for the price of a meal.