Pax in Bello
|PREFACE - Robert E. Osborne - Ottawa, Ontario (1983)|
Many books have been written about the Canadian sailors who fought the war in ships and the airmen who flew against the enemy in the sky but, to my knowledge, there have not been many books written about the young Canadians who engaged the enemy in tanks. Apart from Regimental Histories, their brave story has never been told. This book is an attempt to remedy that omission. It is one man's story and therefore cannot be everyman's experience, but it is the author's hope that it will touch bases at enough places that many of those who read it will say - that's the way it was - I remember that!
The motto of the OSBORNE family is Pax in Bello. It seemed to me that Peace in [the midst of] War was what my book was about. The peaceful English countryside, the peace experienced in the little parish churches, but above all the peace that came when, for me, the fighting was over. That indescribable peace given to those who have looked death in the face and have been given a second chance to live and to love. The Osborne motto, which may sound paradoxical to some, is just what this member of the family felt in those days of the Second World War.
The book began from a packet of letters that my mother had kept. They were letters that I had written to her during the war. I did not keep a diary but I used my letters home to record my feelings and descriptions of places visited. Some of the letters have holes in them where the censor has snipped something out. Using the letters as a framework, I wrote the book from my memory of events. The book then is half my record of events and places at the time of writing and half my reminiscences. I hope it is autobiographical and nowhere to be considered fictional. In a few places I have changed names to avoid any embarrassment - "No names, no pack drill!" [Say nothing and avoid repercussions!] I have called the shots as I saw and remembered them and if sometimes they differ from those of others then my only plea is that this is the very stuff of which history is made.
Our War was different from the First World War, which ended in so much cynicism because of the awful futility of it all. Men like Siegfried Sassoon, the poet, came home from the carnage on the Western Front and threw his Military Cross into the river. For us, it was clearly our life of freedom or to live under the jackboot of Hitler's Nazis. I think most of us felt that some things were worse than death in battle and one of them was slavery. It was a frightening thing during the era of appeasement and "Peace In Our Time" to watch the ominous dark shadow of Nazism creeping across Europe until only the little island of Britain was left. When we listened on the radio to the orchestrated "Sieg Heils!", we wondered how we could ever beat such a bunch of swastika waving fanatics. They seemed to be winning everywhere and their arrogance knew no bounds. But we did beat them and today we live as free men and women. It makes you believe in miracles! It was one hell of a party but I wouldn't have missed it for the world.