Friday, 28 October, 2016
On October 23, 1956, there was a country-wide revolt of Hungarians against Soviet imposed policies. On November 4, a large Soviet force invaded Hungary and brutally suppressed the resistance.
That was almost exactly sixty years ago, and I was nine years old at the time. I can clearly remember being very aware of the BBC radio news reports, and sensing the tension in my parents, as they listened to the depressing news.
In those days, few people had a television, so our only news was that of the two or three daily reports on the radio. The newspapers were always one day old, and the news in the cinemas was at least a week out of date.
A few days later, on 29 October, Israel invaded Egypt, supported by Britain and France, their goal being to seize the Suez Canal, and remove the Egyptian President, Nasser, from power. A few days later, the US and USSR forced them into a humiliating withdrawal. That was the start of the rapid decline of British and French influence on the global scene.
At that time, I overheard my father saying that, if hostilities continued to escalate, he would soon be back in uniform. As he had already spent some seven years serving in WW2, from the Normandy beaches to Lübeck and Hamburg, the prospect of another protracted period of hostilities, was a concern to my parents and their generation.
That period of less than two weeks in late 1956, was a watershed for me. I guess that one could say that it was the end of my innocence, and the beginning of my awareness of the greater world outside the little farm in which I was growing up.
Soon after, I decided that I wanted to go to Sandhurst and become a career officer in the Army. I also started to take an active interest in my father’s business, and he began giving me ‘pocket money’, in return for chores, especially during school holidays. And almost certainly because of my reading, I dreamed vividly of travelling to remote parts, of climbing mountains, of being successful.
My military ambitions did stay with me for a few years. When I was old enough, I joined the local Army Cadets and was an enthusiastic member. But one day, when I was sixteen, I decided that a career of having to blindly obey orders was not for me, and I resigned.
Perhaps I could have made a success out of the expansion of my father’s farming business, but my heart was not in it. The urge to see the world and expand my horizons had become much too strong.
When I was eighteen, I migrated to Canada, and that was the first of my many moves.
And I am still moving…