Pride: In his friends, family, history, work and his goals

Grandfather’s photographs give insight on his wartime experiences

  • Nov. 6, 2013 1:00 p.m.
Samuel Blondahl received a flash insight of what war was about when he found some photographs his grandfather took when he served in Libya during the Second World War.

Samuel Blondahl received a flash insight of what war was about when he found some photographs his grandfather took when he served in Libya during the Second World War.

 

By Samuel Blondahl

When tasked by the Free Press to write a brief story on Remembrance Day, I was challenged.

I have no direct connection to persons who have served save one, a grandfather I barely remember.

Ralph Dent was a Canadian aircraft electrician serving with the British Royal Air Force (RAF) and stationed in Libya

and Egypt during the First World War (WWII). I do not know his motivations for joining the RAF or the feelings he

might have had regarding the war and his role in it, I can only speculate.

Libya was a part of the Italian Empire during WWII, and was the Axis staging ground for planned invasion of Egypt.

The North African campaigns were centred in this region, and this position was crucial to war efforts.

Any airfield would certainly have been an extremely dangerous place to work. I know my grandfather suffered shell

shock from bombings, and I know those effects were not temporary.

As a modern Canadian, I see the world today as being very torn by social and cultural differences. We are dealing

with a completely new kind of war, and a new understanding of the devastation of conflict.

We have a clarity of vision thanks to media and education that gives us perspective on political and humanitarian

issues. During WWII, most people would not have known anything about the Nazi camps or the horrors being

inflicted upon the innocent.

For him, I speculate that joining the RAF must have been about defending England, the land of his ancestors. The

Dent family has a rich history in England; a Dent was close to William the Conqueror, and to this day lands given by

him to my family bear the name Dent.

Our coat of arms even indicates two knights served in the War of the Roses for the Lancasters. It is not much of a

stretch to imagine that family pride was a part of my grandfather’s reasoning.

As for his feelings on his role there, I have some photographs he took during his time there to lend me some flash

of insight. One shows two men working on a fighter plane’s engine, pride in their work must have existed or else

this photograph would likely not have survived.

The other photograph shows a man working on a service car engine, while two helmeted soldiers sit in the backseat.

They all bear smiles and the car bears the bold statement of “Libya or bust!” Pride in their goal must have been

present. They intended to overthrow the Italian rule, and bring the region under Allied control.

And so I see in these brief moments great pride. In his friends, his family, his history, his work, and his goals. For

this, I am proud of him.

For such things, I am proud of all who serve and sacrifice. Our peaceful country would not exist without such

dedication, and but for such pride, I would not live in a world where I do not know anyone well who has had to fight

for it.

The world is not perfect. We, as a people, struggle still with human rights and suffering. After WWII, a common

slogan against genocide was “Never again!”

But such cruelty has happened again, and is happening still. Congo, North Korea, the Middle East, we still fight

wars, and we still fight for what we believe in.

We have not solved the underlying problems of our world, but we understand them better now I think, we see them

more clearly. We have the experience of our elders and we have the resources of education that they made possible

for us.

I believe we will come to a time of peace through such clarity. I think I can see now a point in the future when all

humankind has access to education and the benefits of human compassion.

On the horizon is the goal all those who went before fought to achieve. I am proud of us for coming this far, and I

am proud of the world we are creating.

Remembrance is beautiful, but look forward also on this Remembrance Day. Consider the possibilities of the future

we can achieve.

From a Canadian perspective, war is fought to create peace. To end suffering and provide aid. To create a free and

educated society. I live with the benefits of such a society, and I believe that someday we all will.

Be proud.

Samuel Blondahl is a member of the South Cariboo Writers’ Guild.