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B is for Bravery - Change

It seems remiss to write about bravery without mentioning my experiences in the army, especially with the current backdrop of the war in Ukraine.

There is a war memorial at St Matthew’s Church in High Brooms which I find deeply moving. I am ex-British Army, and venturing into the military does demand bravery and a level of adaptability familiar to the creative soul. You are stepping out into new environments with a bunch of strangers. I needed to change my mindset and embrace a whole new raft of experiences while training to fight, in the knowledge that I might lose my life.

While the First World War is known particularly for its poetry, during both World Wars people documented their experiences by painting and drawing. Some of these were official war painters under the direction of the British Government. Photographers did not come to the fore until the Second World War (these were mostly Americans). To explore further, see artists commissioned by the War Artists Advisory Committee. These include John Piper, Graham Sutherland,Henry Moore, Paul Nash and Stanley Spencer on the home front; and Anthony Gross, Edward Bawden and Edward Ardizzone overseas.

It wasn’t just those in the services who needed to be brave and creative, the nurses often had limited training in cottage hospitals and were pitched into field hospitals facing shortages of water, food and supplies, yet still dealing with horrific injuries. Their change of mindset must have been phenomenal. How brave!

This is also the case for those who did not, or could not, go to war. Their war was at home, a sudden and unwanted change of life style. Then there were the needs of young family members, maybe a change in their work. New mindset and skills were needed to adapt to a new normal. There was no choice, they had to be brave.

Have you ever noticed just how much the other person does in your relationship? If they are sick and unable to help, do you step up and maybe try to keep that normal? Are you the brave one when needs must?

I have seen what ammo, shells and landmines can do. Mentally I had to create my own ‘safe’ space to justify my actions, those things I had been ordered to do! It can feel like nobody wins a war. So, to accompany my last 2 blog posts on bravery, I wish to acknowledge this most visceral* of experiences which many are still going through today.

*Characterised by instinct rather than intellect, gut feelings, emotional responses

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