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Camden New Journal - ROSE HACKER - The Oldest Columnist in the World
Published: 14 February 2007
The only war worth waging is that on unnecessary conflicts?

Before she died, the popular and influential Rose Hacker – ­‘oldest columnist in the world’ – filed her last articles. Here is one of them – others will appear in coming weeks

MY husband Mark’s hero in every possible way, his brother Jo, volunteered for the Royal Flying Corps at 17.
Like so many other young First World War heroes, he was shot down. There are still some survivors around his age, 108.
I remember so well how all our lives were affected. As a result of his injuries Jo was blind. We don’t realise how much it costs to rehabilitate a person who has lost so much, but failing to do so costs far more. Calculate lost earnings at minimum wage. It’s close to a million pounds; difficult to believe. The real price is much higher, even without factoring in special needs, medical provision, retraining, physiotherapy and counselling.
Certainly we honoured the dead, but with war over we had interests other than survivors. How we all, especially young girls, admired the flappers of the 1920s. They wore their hair in a bunch hanging behind their necks, tied back into a big black bow. These girls were the loveliest things in the repertoire. Very pure. My cousin Dorothy, a typical example, ex­plained to us that she did not use make-up – that would have been “fast”.
She might use some beetroot juice to enhance her lips or cheeks as a natural substance could not be considered “make-up”.
War had changed everything. Our parents and grandparents had instilled the idea that a promise would be kept and love would last forever. In many cases it did. That, to be honest, was how most people felt, but war was partly responsible for the swing towards sex for instant gratification with no consequences. Flappers had been part of the glamour of war. Girls going out with the “boys in uniform” felt unable to refuse because “he was going off to war and might be killed”.
Glamour boosted war. Reality didn’t. All those years, those forgotten, damaged men, a legacy that should never leave our consciousness and memories. Hardly a family was untouched by images of the “boys in blue”. We would see, strolling on Richmond Bridge, those capable of walking from the nearby Roehampton, just one of many large specialist hospitals for the war-wounded. Few got wheelchairs then.
Now, despite increasing military injuries, the specialist hospitals are all closed except for one small unit in a Birmingham NHS hospital.
Many young men were shot for cowardice. Today we recognise they were suffering from shellshock – now more fashionably called post-traumatic stress disorder. But their fate was probably better than that of many who didn’t die.
Such a fuss is made of someone who dies, whereas somebody wounded and ruined for life doesn’t count. Many end up with long-term mental problems, often living and dying on the streets. That fate of so many First World War heroes who did not die has been repeated after every war since.
The idealised glamour contrasted with the stark reality of Jo’s daily life. Never employed, his brothers gave him odd jobs as and when they could. In those days the war-wounded were mostly burdens on their wives and families, expected to do it all somehow without help.
Jo married but didn’t have children. He died rather horribly of skin cancer while his wife was visiting her family in Belgium. She asked for the ashes to be sent to her. Half went into her family vault in the Catholic church in a Belgian town whose name I can’t remember – it began with a B.
In my imagination, on resurrection day, half of Jo’s skeleton will be dancing in Belgium while the other half dances at the Golders Green crematorium.
Then there were frequent heartless references to the “two million surplus women” whose men never came back. Many children never knew their fathers except by name and a notice of death.
Several wars on, fought for King/Queen and country – Iraq and Afghanistan are the ­latest – I would have thought that people would begin to see through the subterfuge and say “Enough is enough,” but maybe I’m wrong. It makes you feel so hopeless. I may oppose war, but I see the contempt governments show for the young people they sacrifice for its fake glory and glamour.
Couldn’t we have a culture where people only sacrifice for all of society, the whole world, where only the United Nations could authorise war? Whatever happened to the non-proliferation treaties? Our governments make nonsense of them.
It’s time we realised these wars are just rubbish. We have plenty of blue pencils, enough skills to design a new peaceful world order, if only we weren’t so corrupted.
And what about those “pure young things”? We still send glamorous female pop stars to entertain our troops. Could we make the connection that Robert Burns did?
“I waive the quantum of the sin,
The hazard of ­concealing;
But, oh! it hardens all within,
And petrifies the ­feeling!”
Are we concealing the truth of war under glamorous images and does that harden our hearts? The glamour of the flapper era is long past. It’s time for reality.
Maybe things would change if each side sent thousands or millions to sing against each other, a musical glamour offensive.
Let’s put our leaders, the Bushes, Browns, Blairs and more on to white chargers to fight each other, while the foot soldiers stage international singing contests fighting for the biggest, most glamorous prize of all, world peace.

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