After seeing the horrendous news footage from the Abu Salim hospital in Tripoli, I was reminded that my late step-father spent time in the region during WW2. His experiences affected him until the very end of his 89 years. I never heard him brag about his exploits, nor did he glorify war. Rather, he was irreparably damaged by the human cost of conflict. So, although his accounts could sometimes be funny, more often that not, they were heart-rending.
He told of his time in Tobruk, shortly after the Allies had retaken it in November, 1942. "I buried a young officer," he said, "I'll always remember, his hands were soft and small, like a woman's." Arthur was only 22, but war made certain he was seeing life from a point, way beyond his years.
The images I see today, horrify me, but I'm not actually there. I am only qualified to give a distant reaction. I've never been called up to fight for my country, and although it's been said many times by men of my generation, it's worth repeating, we owe a huge debt to the likes of Arthur. He was at the sharp end. All I can do is write a poem. You can read it at Poetry24.