Guest article

“Have we moved on?” Soldier’s daughter and Labour parliamentary candidate remembers

Maria Carroll remembers her father’s neglect by government

This article was originally published on 11 November 2018. Maria Carroll is now Labour’s parliamentary candidate for Camarthen East and Dinefwr

By Maria Carroll

Remembrance Sunday has a specific meaning in our family. You see, I’m a soldier’s daughter born to a soldier’s son. I’m also a soldier’s Mum.

From early childhood we have attended the parades, worn our poppies and paid tribute but we never talked about it. Never talked about what our forebears saw and the consequences of that on the generations that came after. There must be millions of families like mine that didn’t talk about it.

One hundred years of not talking about it.

It was only through tracing our family forces history that we found out some of it. My grandfather fought in WW1. From Ireland he and his five brothers came to fight against fascism. He was the only one of those six boys that survived the battle of the Somme. I didn’t know. We didn’t talk about it. He returned to life in a mining village. I believed the persistent cough was from mining, because we didn’t talk about the mustard gas.

As a young child of a soldier family I travelled the world with my parents. We played in the beautiful Roman ruins in Homs, probably the world’s most intact Roman ruins, now mostly lost to the bombing of Syria. We played with children in so many countries. None of us knew, because our parents didn’t talk about it. We were allies, not against another country or culture, but allies of childhood games.

I was six when I first remember dad being ill, or more ill than usual. I wrote in my school diary that my dad had been found in Cardiff, suffering from amnesia. A child of six telling school friends what amnesia was, describing an adult cowering in a corner crying, wasn’t something the schools could cope with. It soon got closed down because we don’t talk about that. By the age of seven I learned the stigma of mental health illness and I learnt to not talk about it. That’s what we do to get by, to belong, be accepted.

I was seven when Dad was medically discharged from the army. Just like that. No after care, no support. No home and a very sick man, who stared into space, tried but still cried, cowered in a corner reliving something we had no idea of and calling out about shoes, children’s shoes. He was still to me the most wonderful man on the planet.

Two years later my five brothers and I were told one morning, by Mum aged 33, that we had to be very brave – our Dad was dead. We didn’t get told how and why, because we didn’t talk about that. But the kids in school knew and it didn’t take long for them to escalate from your dad is in a ‘loony bin’ to he ‘topped’ himself. But there was no one for us to talk to, no one explaining or listening nor did we ask, because talking about it brings attention and we didn’t want that. We believed we were different, didn’t belong. Now we know we weren’t. It’s just that no one talks about it.

There was no such thing as PTSD, no care for veterans, plenty of heroic parades and celebrations for those who gave so much but no one talked about those suffering the impact in their minds. My Dad may have been honourably medically discharged from the army on paper but we were, all of us, dishonourably discharged from the celebrations, from society and any form of after support that may have existed for families. What little that did exist was from charities and they certainly didn’t want to talk about it, in fact our very presence felt like we were an embarrassment to them. After all aren’t we all supposed to be the victors, the leaders, the country with the best most disciplined forces in the world?

It was only in recent years that we learned the truth of Dad’s experience and that was by accident. A painted stone was moved from Mum’s fireplace. I learnt the stone was a gift from a survivor of the camps. My father had been part of the liberation force. What he saw was more than he could bear. He didn’t talk about it but Mum met one of the ‘band of brothers’ who told her how he had fallen apart. The sights they saw, the guilt, the horror of what they found, none of them were prepared for it. The thousands and thousands of pairs of children’s shoes.

So today, Remembrance Day, I ask have we moved on? Are we going to talk about it? Are we going to challenge the fact that thousands of veterans are living on the streets? Is PTSD recognised in our public services? Is support there for those families who for no fault of their own experience pain that we cannot imagine?

It was this life experience that brings me to support Jeremy Corbyn. He’s but one man but he signifies a growing awareness that there has to be a better way of resolving the world’s conflicts than war. We have to talk about this.

So today I decided to talk about it. I’m the daughter of a fantastic man that died because the system and our culture let him and so many others down, and it’s still doing it. War is not glorious and victory is not the land we conquer.

We have to talk about it. But we have to do more than talk about it. We must fight for a labour government. Because it is only a labour government, and this particular, right now, labour movement that will lead the world in promoting human rights, reform the arms trade, seek an end to conflict not preservation of a world order that seeks to preserve profit and make the promise of a nuclear-free world a reality before there is no planet left.

And we must start that right now by demanding that the funding axed by this government from mental health services and after care from veterans is immediately replaced.

One hundred years on I don’t want any family to suffer the generational agony that mine has.

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  1. They didn’t leave Ireland to “fight fascism” which was only a gleam in the eye of ordinary soldier Mussolini (at the time a world renowned International Socialists!). It does raise the interesting point of what soldiers did think they were fighting for in WW1. Sounds like pure Nationalism?

  2. Simple forced or conned into a Royals war… Traditional power wars and traditional butchery… Do we never learn from history,or are we in our ignorance bound by the centre of gravity to keep repeating it WW1the war to end all wars?

    1. Exactly so. And at the moment the West turns a blind eye (again) to Turkey funding and training Jidhadists to slaughter the Kurds. Apparently it’s not ‘done’ to criticise our NATO ally and of course there is the strong suspicion that US, U.K., and France would end up backing their ally if it came to war with Syria and possibly even Russia. That’s been the war aim for 8 years now; collapse Syria, then Iran. Under 18’s need to be better educated about war; currently many swallow the ‘Honour and Glory’ bullshit.

  3. This is the same Maria Carroll faced downright lies from the daiy heil that she personally instructed labour members how to ‘beat’ charges of antisemitism.

    That’ll be the same daily heil that said Ralph Miliband (Himself jewish) ‘HATED’ the UK – Despite having served in the navy, indeed having took part in the Normandy landings.

    That’s the treatment you get from the heil. Oh, you’re the dog’s bollocks WHILE you’re in service – but once you’re out, you’re nobody; and fair game for whatever smears & sneers the right wing media can hurl in your direction.

    So, Maria, the answer’s a resounding ‘NO’ .

    Nothing has changed. And don’t expect it to as long as the rich demand WE fight for THEIR interests.

  4. As a Disabled Vet from the Borneo Confrontasi, I feel so moved by your story. I always knew families were also casualties of war and the fact that so little is done for those who come “back” whether they be the soldiers or their families. There are no winners in war!
    I take the liberty of including a link to a poem of mine “Treat Our Soldiers Right”
    Good luck with the election!

  5. This story has a lot of resonance. Most immediately, there are issues about the treatment of those discharged from the forces – whether by force of circumstance or retirement. The support available is simply inadequate in terms particularly of on-going support.

    Although I do contribute to the British Legion, because of the support it gave to my mother’s family after WWI, I never wear a poppy, because it has become a knee-jerk gesture whilst the crap about glory and service masks the vicious truth about the care of those who have been damaged or killed. I would hope that a Labour government will move to rectify this long-standing injustice.

    Historically, my concern is that the lessons learned from two world wars, and communicated to people such as myself by the participants, are being forgotten, whist sorry excuses like Johnson garner the support of millions.

    No, Joseph, they aren’t simply ‘Royal’ wars – there are plenty of fellow travellers to say ‘Three bags full,sir’ when brutality and facism beckon (and of course, pretended socialism also has its piles of corpses). The lessons are soon forgotten or ignored.

  6. Thank you Maria for your thoughtful article from a family’s perspective. Nobody talked to their family about WWI. It was too horrific and churned up bad memories of hunger, loss & rotting in trenches. My grandfather went at 15, lost an eye trying to save his brother and returned minus all his school mates. Today war occurs without us barely being aware of it – executed by drones. “All Wars Are Bankers’ Wars” is well worth 45 minutes of your life.

    1. Wars today are carried out by drones? It’s almost a nice idea when you’ve seen Turkish Jihadis pulling women from cars, raping and mutiliating their bodies and then firing dozens of bullets at the corpses and all the while shouting religious slogans. And that was just on the first morning of the invasion of Syria! Now they’re terrorising hundreds of thousands of Kurds to get to flee and busily burning their houses after they’ve been thoroughly looted. That’s still the reality of war – vicious person to person killing.

  7. RH. Your veiw on the history of the first world war is breathtakingly ignorent and I can now see why the second world war started! .The assassination of duke Ferdinand in the Balkans kicked off the first world war……The war of the Royals….and stop sniping at socialism,you are in a socialist party and a socialist revival.,you are clearly suffering from spending too long on your bended knees…comrade

    1. Another of your strange over-statements, Joseph. The forces that resulted in WW1 were more than just a family spat between interbreeding members of European royalty. You should be wary of shoe-horning history into your suitcase of manichean peconceptions. Were things that simple!

      As to the ‘sniping at socialism’ – not at all. Just sniping at the use of the term ‘socialism’ as a cover for oligarchy/autocracy and the sequestration of power. The examples are not hard to find – as seen in one simple example – in the superiority of of the GDR over the DDR. There was nothing ‘socialist’ about the all-pervasive STASI.

      So it’s not about ‘socialism’ – it’s about the (too frequent) use of the term by fakes. Terminology v. Reality. Remember – Hitler claimed to be a ‘socialist’.

      1. I quite admire your skill at obfuscation and dodging the issue! You certainly work hard!

      2. RH when you’re in a hole stop digging.I would guess Richard Hayward that you like me are knocking on a bit?…But thats no excuse for the constant grovelling to the establishment and Royalty that are the main problem we are fighting against.They represent everything our modern socialist Labour party are fighting .Born to rule privilege and sheer bloody reckless when contemplating sending our young men and women now to war.This party is a socialist revival with young men and women who are better educated and have not been schooled like many to recognize their “Betters”and will finally stop the carnage and demand for a war for” Peace”as our politicians across all partys demand.Jeremy Corbyn gets it and supports a socialist revival.Why dont you stop ✋ trying to rewrite the History of the first world war and the Royalists wars of the Hapsburgs the assassination of duke Ferdinand and the Romonovs in the Russian empire of the peter Czar of Russia and of course our German royal family heirs to the Austria \Prussian empire..Most of that tradition has now gone from Europe and hopefully our generation will also be gone and Monarchy and the establishment will be consigned to the dustbin of history..Too many sad old men and women telling myths to our young people who do not automatically conform to privalage and your Highness,your lordship and can I be a Knight of the realm gong in recognition of having sold out my grandfather father and clapped whilst they drowned in the mud or mustered gassed or invalided from the Deserts of NAfrica..Stop this corrosive moderate claptrap and get up off your knees comrade..!

      3. “constant grovelling to the establishment and Royalty”

        You undermine your own points, Joseph with this sort of nonsense where anything you don’t exactly agree with becomes exaggerated to the point of incoherence in your imagination.

        Constantly banging on about one or two groups/issues doesn’t a make a socialist. It’s more reminiscent of religious incantation dividing the the world by simpliicities (actually, the notion of ‘god’ gets the first chop ahead of royalty in my revolution – far more insidious in its retrograde influence)

  8. There are a number of puzzling things about this. Assuming it’s not a misprint, anyone so ignorant of history as to claim that WW1 was a “fight against fascism” shouldn’t really be a Labour Party candidate in my opinion. As for playing in the Roman ruins of presumably Palmyra (in Homs province) as a child, it would be interesting to know at what point the British army was there unless it was before the spring of 1946, when they withdrew after a little known military operation against the French. The ruins at Palmyra were not “bombed,” they were blown up by ISIS nutters.

    As for the tragic circumstances and poverty that persuaded young Irishmen to side with imperialism against both their nation and their class, James Connolly was one of the few working class activists to risk taking sides with the nationalists in the Dublin GPO in 1916. He paid for it with his life but then on the other side, so did five of Ms Carroll’s uncles.

    As the song has it:
    “‘Twas England bade our wild geese go that small nations might be free,
    But, their lonely graves are by Suvla’s waves on the fringe of the grey North Sea.
    Oh, had they died by Pearse’s side, or fought with the noble Cathal Brugha,
    Their graves we’d keep where the Fenians sleep, ‘neath the hills of the Foggy Dew.”

    The Norman conquest of Ireland from 1169 was achieved by some dozen Norman nobles accompanied by 500 Welsh mercenaries. On 8 June 1982 some 48 soldiers died when Argentine aircraft bombed “Sir Galahad.” Of these, 32 were Welsh “mercenaries,” driven to their deaths by the same economic imperatives facing those young Irishmen.

    Sir Galahad survivor Steve Dawkins from Caerau, near Maesteg, recalled how the vessel was hit by three 500lb bombs. “It was a cock up – we had seen Argentinean aircraft coming down Bomb Alley in Falkland Sound and they were getting better day by day but the officers kept arguing about what to unload first and just told us not to worry.”

    I used to live in Llandovery in this constituency. My MP was the excellent Adam Price, for whom I used to vote. There is no doubt that he would dwarf my pigmy knowledge of history: and he was a leading opponent of the Blair/New Labour illegal butchery of Iraq.

    I wouldn’t vote for his successor Jonathan Edwards because of Plaid’s cynical deal with the LibDems (perhaps not so cynical as I note Plaid stood down in most English contexts over a thousand years ago), which would leave me backing Ms Carroll – but I do think we could do better

    Like RH, I contribute to the RBL but don’t wear a poppy because of the cant that surrounds the occasion. Unlike RH I am neither arrogant nor cynical enough to claim that working class people around the globe who have tried to build socialism (and sometimes failed) against all the odds were only “pretending.” If we think that, we can kiss our arses goodbye before we even start to try to build socialism ourselves.

    1. Britain invaded Iraq in 1914 capturing Basra and then slowly worked their way up river eventually capturing Baghdad at enormous cost eg at Kut. It was a particularly ugly war with constant ‘Punitive’ columns pushing into areas with a POLICY of massacre and burning of whole villages. When the British decided to stay in 1918 there was full scale revolt. Airplanes were used to bomb villages for the first time – and they weren’t a ‘novelty’ as some British historians like to suggest – even innovative! The outspoken racism of the British Rulers and their appalling cold bloodied reactions doesn’t feature in British school books; just a reference to that ‘interesting’ idea of bombing your enemies families as they way forward’. No wonder Basra rose in revolt against the British again in 2003. This time the Brits had to admit defeat and slunk off to Afghanistan. Try “Enemy on the Euphrates: The Battle for Iraq 1914-1921” by Ian Rutledge. It reminds you that the battle for the ME has been going on for over 100 years now. Same places, same tactics.

    2. Not ‘arrogant’ at all, and not particularly ‘cynical’ Just factual (and you’ve also missed the point). People have been sold down the river by leaders (perhaps ‘Bleeders’ would be a more accurate term) claiming ‘socialist’ principles as they have been by capitalist plutocrats. The motivations to exploit the capital of power have been much the same – and that’s the point : the common exploitation of aspirations, which the incantation of the word ‘socialism’ doesn’t change one whit in reality.

      ‘Socialism’ emerges through practise – not in bullshit, and is vulnerable to the same old vices and corruption.

    3. Labrebisgalloise I think you make some good points and your knowledge of history is good,and we all strive to be good socialist members,many fail but the aspiration really is all that matters .and put downs on socialism by party members like RH is corrosive and part of the reason that we will not have a landslide victory despite having the most political right wing Tory and libdems in living memory.We have too broad a church.Also NOT all candidates understand the History of the first world war but by claiming fascist started the first world war I could use poetic licence and claim that the family fueding amongst the Royals that started the war were modern day fascists…But in truth they were just greedy people who thought s Slaughtering peasentry was no great sacrifice for those Born to rule.I am hoping that lessons on history might filter through to Macron in France were I live but maybe the Republic means nothing to an ex Banker.?.My grandfather Lawrence pullen served in the RWF and came from Tredagar in Wales and was a Communist after what he experienced at Ypres and worked for a socialist Labour party.Its been over a hundred years since his and many in the Labour movment have tried for a true socialist Labour party,but with luck we might see a socialist PM in Downing street.soon.

    1. Just trying to shovel some of the excrement of misconceptions that you pile on top of the actuality of history, Joseph 🙂

      I don’t think that your ‘Brief History of WW1’ is going to sell well. There were a few more things going on than the doings of one in-bred European family.

      … and I really don’t need any lectures about family history, coming from one that lost a number of members in WW1 (including one grandfather and another who was gassed), had a communist father who refused training for a commission on principle in WW2. Above all, I don’t need to be told about the horrors of those wars and the resulting wish for a better society that they passed on – I got it first hand.

      Their raw experience meant they didn’t deal in simplicities.

      1. He refused training for a Commission; why? What principle was he defending, the one that said he should always be at the bottom of the stack? He didn’t want the responsibility or couldn’t be arsed? Many a leftie was delighted to get a toe in the system so they could start kicking it open. The Army Education Service did a lot to bring about the GE result of 1945. It relied on young officers convinced ‘the time had come’. Lucky they hadn’t refused ‘on principle’. I’d say more communists fought in the British forces in WW2 than at any time in our history – for obvious reasons. I knew one of them very well. And the time has come again Eh RH?…… I’m almost sure you’ll agree….

      2. He may have been mistaken in his analysis of principle – which was, as far as I know, about a dislike of the hierarchy that, in the Navy was extremely rigid. He didn’t pontificate about it, and never mistook rhetoric for political action.

        Nor did he wallow in pompous blather about the motivations of a previous generation, one of whom was his father – who was killed in 1918.

  9. Jeremy Corbyn has unleashed a sleeping giant and this time we will not be forced back in our working class box…The younger generation have been subjected to most of the misery and carried the burden of Tory fanatics.They will finish the job whether we the older generation are here or not…!

    1. Yes it’s beginning to feel good, very good! The problem for the Tories is the perception of outright CORRUPTION in almost everything they do and say. To have Johnson in charge for 5 years would be unbearable and that is starting to sink in. We know if they win a majority or team up with scabs like Chuka and Swinson there won’t be ANY progress on thinks like the NHS, Schools, Climate, Housing, Child poverty etc etc .just endless bluster, hot air and blatant untruths.

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