Ask Not For Whom the Bell Tolls

By now everyone’s likely heard that Queen Elizabeth passed, with her family by her side, hopefully peacefully. She made it through horrors most of us will never know; horrors too many people seem willing to forget, with the thought of “it can’t happen again.” But she made it, and she lived, and now we have lost that living memory of WWII and all that happened after. Yet we still have the stories she left behind, and those we must not lose.

I have one.

One of my grandfathers was a waist gunner for a bomber in WWII; first in North Africa, then later flying out of Britain.

(Yes, I checked historical records to make sure. Given some of my relatives’ – ahem – tangential relationship with the truth, I had to check. But he was there in the records. There’s even photographic evidence: the airplane, named, with her flight crew arranged in front of her. He’s right in the middle of it, name, position and all. That bomber later crashed on landing, with a different crew, so… he got lucky.)

The British citizens were not all, shall we say, welcoming to these hordes of Yanks coming overseas and trouping on and off their airbases to “get in a little fishing”. My grandfather may actually have been fishing. He did it on several AF bases later in his life; there was a photo of him with hooked fish in front of a sign in Icelandic that says “don’t fish here, danger, hot springs”. He also objected to being called a Yank, given he was from Georgia…. anyway.

He’d been off-base, fishing with a buddy, and had made it through part of a very long walk back. When a pretty dark-haired young British lady in an Army truck stopped, and offered the guys a lift back to the base. They accepted, apparently had a pleasant chat on the way, she dropped them off, and he never saw her again.

After he got past the gates, the guards told him that was Princess Elizabeth.

Other people can drag up politics, and Legacies, and all the tomfoolery they want about outdated monarchies and purposeless hate.

I’ll remember her as someone kind enough to stop for a stranger, and give him a ride home.

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14 thoughts on “Ask Not For Whom the Bell Tolls

  1. That’s the kind of person you want to be in charge of things – not just knowing of the big picture, but knowing that the individual could use a simple helping hand sometimes.

    When I heard she’d passed, my first reaction was denial, which I suppose is completely natural.

    Today, I am remembering a piece of fanfiction on AO3 (The MCU fanfiction AU series called “Housemates” which splits off from the mainline MCU when it drops a Loki falling from the Bifrost at the end of the first Thor movie into the lives and deaths of the UK version of “Being Human”) which has her appear.

    Granted, it’s fanfic, but there’s a line in there that looking back on her many accomplishments and actions throughout her life that I think she might well have agreed with:

    “My own (time) is nearly past, and perhaps one day the time of the throne will pass as well. This is not within our control, nor should it be. Our role is one of service, for as long as we are needed, and so it will remain. The realm will remain, and we will pass into history.”

    Rest in peace, great lady, and may we who remain keep alive the memory of your actions and purposes, to support your kin in this their time of grief, and continue your work as we can.

    Liked by 6 people

    1. Her Majesty was nobility, not just by birth, but by character.

      When I think of an ideal monarch, fictional or otherwise, I think of the scene in The Magician’s Nephew where Aslan asks a simple London Cabby: „Will you be first in every desperate charge, and last in every desperate retreat?“ and so on. While he wasn’t able to answer with absolute certainty, that cabby went on to become the first king of Narnia.

      Her Majesty lived up to those standards.
      And who knows, His Majesty just might surprise us all. After all, Edmund Pevensie earned the byname „The Just“.
      I wonder what King Charles III might be called one day.

      Liked by 4 people

      1. Unfortunately, I suspect a lot of what King Charles III will be called will not be suitable for the dinner table. He certainly never impressed me as the Prince of Wales.

        Liked by 3 people

      2. He has been a decentish Duke of Cornwall, running the properties with only a bit of faddishness. Camilla has steadied him… Not easy to do. So maybe it will come out all right, if only because he might have realized he can just be normal and get it done.

        Liked by 1 person

      3. I’m going to give the benefit of doubt, for a short period of time, while I am waiting to see what happens.

        We could wind up with an awesome technothriller.

        Charles looks into his mother’s papers, and discovers that she was begging Andrew to turn state’s evidence, and that on 8/24/2022 she mentioned to Andrew that she had information that could lead to the arrest of Hillary Clinton.

        Skip forward a few years, and Meghan has had someone finagle her way into a Federal Senator nomination and campaign.

        Charles tries one last time to convince Harry to quit it, and mentions some key details that Google overhears. This gets passed onto someone already jealous of Meghan’s potential for feminist icon PoC leadership in The Party, who concludes that Meghan Knows Too Much.

        The assassination kills Meghan, and leaves Harry alive, able bodied, and in a murderous fugue.

        Then he goes all action hero, with all ‘friendly’ security services secretly plotting against him.

        I’m honestly not sure what happens with his supporting cast. Commonwealth or US veterans could be pretty plausible. But, most recently I thought up an insane delusional conspiracy theorist living in Mexico, who is either a cold war NATO intelligence officer who thinks he is his Russian cover, a retiree from a Russian service, an active duty Russian who is genuinely renegade, or an active duty Russian trying to run a complicated double cross.

        Of course, we live in clownworld, so nothing that good could possibly happen.

        If I had the skill and time, writing it would at least be okay trolling.

        Liked by 2 people

  2. In 96 years (or most any lifetime), a person can be a LOT of things. It’s already impossible to really know the *whole* of a another person, and with Public Personages it’s even harder b/c most of what we know of them is passed through the Sensantionalism Filter. So they tend to become largely defined in the public consciousness by a single event or statement.

    In QE-II’s case, we’re talking about a woman who
    1. was born early enough to see agriculture still heavily dominated by horse-drawn plows,
    2. had the aftermath of the Great War and the “live” experience of the Great Depression as childhood formative influences (despite being at least somewhat insulated by her position)
    3. served during another war that, at the time, looked downright existential for her homeland
    4. Watched the utter collapse of “her” Empire, arguably the largest the world had ever known
    5. Lived through a complete, rapid, rearrangement of global power structures
    6. Lived in a main targetting area of the Cold War
    7. Saw the Space Race, and multiple generations of upheaval in music, arts, politics
    8. Saw the Cold War *end*, without a bang
    9. Saw the Internet Age upend the world *again*
    10. Saw what could be regarded as the “Germany Invades Poland” equivalent for this century (Russia vs Ukraine)

    …and who knows what I’m overlooking. And 99% of the reactions to her passing will be dominated by a single point along that fractal arc.

    Regardless of your opinion of her, as a person or a monarch, it’s worth a moment to take a step back and try to see that whole timeline. If nothing else, it would be fascinating to pick her brain about the 20th century as a whole.

    Liked by 4 people

  3. Driving a military truck in the 1940s was not the same as a modern truck of even similar size and power.

    Truck tires are still pretty dangerous, but they may be safer now.

    One of the big things would be a few decades fewer lessons learned by automobile manufacturers about mechanical reliability.

    Less design for reliability, and less manufacturing for reliability means more breakdowns.

    Meaning that even a part time driver is going to need to be able to mentally troubleshoot a fix, and implement it if possible.

    Liked by 3 people

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