Following on from my previous blog post on Kathleen’s family history in the army, this blog post will focus on how Kathleen responded to growing up as part of an army family and how she presents the benefits of joining the military not just for men but for their families.
As a well-established army man Kathleen’s father succeeded in climbing the ranks of the military which in turn provided him and his family with greater social standing and opened their eyes to a new world of experience and adventure. Kathleen describes the houses her family lived in whilst her father was assigned his new posts across the continent, she describes big colourful gardens, big open houses and the numerous servants who worked for her family.
Kathleen looks back with great fondness on her childhood and as she does she creates an incredibly positive picture of how it felt being part of an army family and meeting fellow army families at different posts. Take for example the close relationship she and her family shared with the Harris family, ‘our respective fathers had known each other years before in Malta when they were young soldiers. They met again in Dover, by which time each had married and the two wives became friends.’ (p5). Kathleen highlights that by being in the army it allowed great friendships to be made and often these friendships lasted into later life.
Throughout her memoir Kathleen recounts her experiences from childhood with great fondness, her and her sister ‘were excited at the thought of once more going abroad’ (p32) when they found out about their father’s new post. It is not surprising when Kathleen recalls her time spent around army personnel that she was excited by the thought of once more going away, as they made the journey even more exciting it would appear through the activities they provided for the children. ‘The Corps laid on a Christmas party for the children, complete with an enormous Christmas tree, and each child received a fairly expensive present.’ (p11), Kathleen’s account of how she was treated and indulged as a child by the army suggest that the army looked after not only their men but also their families.
Clare Gibson states, ‘for these relatively well travelled youngsters, one of the most priceless advantages of an army childhood has furthermore always been the opportunity to venture outside the wire in order to experience and explore the foreign countries that have temporarily provided them with a home from home.’ (594 of 785-Kindle edition)
Kathleen truly relished in all the exciting locations she was able to explore by being part of an army family and this is shown through her excitement and exploration of the different cultures she met as part of a travelling army girl. Kathleen has an undoubtedly positive response to growing up in the army and this is due to the experiences it provided her with.
Kathleen and her sister’s excitement at being part of an army family is seemingly overshadowed by her mother and father’s upset when they learn they must once again move away as her father is posted in India. ‘My parents had hoped that foreign service would not crop up again during my father’s remaining years in the Army.’ (p31) Kathleen’s mothers upset at having to once again relocate highlights the down sides of army life, alike to in their first married year, when Vic was born whilst his father was away, the army had once again taken over their life.
Upon Kathleen’s father’s death he was provided with a military funeral which she did not attend, as Kathleen details why her mother did not allow her to go it further suggests limitations to being part of an army family. ‘A military funeral with the coffin transported on a gun carriage and the final salute fired over the grave is a harrowing experience’ (p97), it is somewhat devasting to hear that Kathleen did not attend her father’s funeral, however when the military process is revealed it is obvious why she was removed.
Being part of an army family was greatly advantageous for Kathleen and her family, however being in the army is a job which requires great commitment and willingness and as Kathleen demonstrates the army can in some respects take over a persons life.
Lindley, Kathleen M: ‘A time to be born’ Typescript. 98pp 1976, Brunel University Library.
Gibson, Clare: ‘Army Childhood: British Army Children’s lives and times.’, Shire Publications. 2012. (kindle edition)
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