Published to coincide with the commemoration of the 90th anniversary of the beginning of the First World War, this exceptional book is, quite simply, a remarkable and inspirational read.
With every passing year, the First and Second World Wars are seen more and more as remote history, rather than as something that directly shaped us. We forget that, not so long ago, people lived through times that we can barely understand. These never-before-published stories from ordinary people, from Castlemilk in Glasgow - silent heroes - who lived through the World Wars burst in on us with an electrifying freshness. They make us pause and consider the many lessons that we might learn from their experiences. The matter-of-fact, word-for-word tales say more to us than any debate ever could.
These are the stories of people from a community that is rarely given the opportunity to have voice. They are people whose uncomplaining peace-time lives were often poverty-stricken or who had to cope with their after-war injuries in a world that was moving on. Their voices were not heard. Their war experiences lead them to reflections on good and evil, poverty and wealth, faith and doubt. Through these interviews, we encounter a tiny fragment of that dialogue which continues without pause today.
We might expect such tales to be bitter or harrowing. Instead, they are inspiring and uplifting. Acts of human kindness amidst unspeakable mass cruelty abound. People accept their 'lot' and get on with the task at hand. We are right to marvel at their bravery, tolerance and stamina but we also begin to see that there are many more parallels with today than we might have realised - and that perhaps the biggest lesson of all is to never forget.
Silent Heroes paperback by John Miller was published by St Andrew Press in October 2004. The ISBN for Silent Heroes paperback is 9780715208151.