Letter to the editor: response to the diary of John Evans – the generation who fought for peace in Europe

Thank you for publishing the fascinating and thought-provoking diary entry of the late John Evans. As someone has already commented, he was, like my father, a member of a generation that knew at first hand the horrors of a Europe divided against itself.

My father had to volunteer to join the British Army when World War Two broke out, as opposed to being called up. This was simply because he was regarded as an ‘enemy alien’, having been born in Italy during World War One. His father, who had already spent many years in the UK, took his wife and family back to Italy when he was called up by the Italian Army, one of the UK’s allies in that war; my father was born while they were there, hence had Italian citizenship. Nevertheless, he volunteered to give up many years at the prime of his life to fight against Fascism, and for freedom, justice and cooperation in Europe.

His two brothers were not called up, one because he was in a ‘reserved occupation’ helping to build aircraft for the war effort. He volunteered for the RAF, but was lost with his navigator flying a mission over the Tyrrhenian Sea, a victim of mistaken identity – ‘friendly fire’. His widow and his navigator’s widow never remarried. My other uncle volunteered at 17 rather than waiting to be called up; his health was ruined in the jungles of Burma, which affected the rest of his life.

I well remember how my father enjoyed our camping holidays in Europe, and the degree to which he got on so well with everyone, whatever their nationality; I can still visualise him sharing a huge glass of wine with Herr Baumrucker at a campsite in Italy. My other uncle was the same. I feel sure that all three of these brave volunteers would have articulated exactly the same thoughts and emotions as John Evans, and would be horrified at the way the UK has now shot itself in the foot; this as a result of a flawed ‘advisory’ referendum in which barely a quarter of the population voted for what has become a national tragedy.

A WCB reader