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The International Writers Magazine
: Remembering:

Costs of War
Anne Young

It is almost twenty five years since my father died. During that time he has never really left me – or the other members of my family. This includes my four children, two of whom never knew him because they were born after he died and two who were too young to get to know him before he died.


He was regarded as being a very special person by my husband and I and consequently these thoughts, ideas and feelings about him must have just filtered down to them over the years. I would have described him as being a very gentle man who could not hurt a flea but yet had a way of getting his message across loud and clear when need arose.

Living in India has made me feel closer to him. He arrived in Calcutta in 1941 during World War II and was to be in India until 1946. His remit was to service the planes going into Burma to fight the Japanese. After joining the RAF and doing basic training in Yorkshire, he and others who enlisted were assigned to a ship leaving Pembroke Dock and were not told where they were going. It would have soon been obvious that they were heading east but they did not know how far until they reached India’s shores.

My father was brought up in Glengarry, a breathtakingly beautiful glen right in the heart of the Scottish highlands. His father worked as a gardener for Edward Ellice Jnr. Who owned the whole glen and the adjoining Glen Quoich. Ellices’s father, Edward Ellice Sen. was very much part of the Hudson Bay Company in Canada at the beginning of the 19th century. He made his fortune trading pelts and furs before returning to England to become an M.P. A trend for well-heeled gentlemen at the latter half of the 19th century was to emulate Queen Victoria by buying massive estates in Scotland mainly for inviting their friends up to shoot, fish and stalk deer. The Ellices treated their staff very well. This is noted in a few of the many history books that have been written about the Scottish highlands. The house where my father was born in 1919, the original schoolhouse for Glengarry is today occupied by descendants of the Ellices. The glen is very sparsely populated now due to the lack of employment in the area.

My father absolutely adored the place that he was born and brought up in. Our childhood brimmed over with stories, adventures and experiences, happy and sad that were part of his upbringing. His family were all very close, three sisters and an older brother. Throughout his life he enjoyed a very special relationship with his father. I can still see them now, head to head talking, laughing, smiling, thoroughly enjoying each others company. When he was a young boy his father taught him how to fish, garden, sing, play the fiddle, appreciate good books and to treat everyone around him well. As his daughter I was never made to feel like I was worth less in any way than my brothers. We were brought up in the 50s and 60s – when stereotypes were abound – in a very egalitarian fashion. My three brothers have always been at ease with treating females equally and with respect. I believe this was a result of the way in which my father was brought up. All the chores were shared between the girls and the boys. In the glen they were close to being self sufficient. They had a cow for milk, butter and crowdie (cheese); chickens for eggs; they grew berries for jams and they were able to chop wood for heating and cooking. They would get a sack of oatmeal and a sack of flour delivered monthly and from this they would make scones and porridge. My father’s porridge is the absolute best I have ever tasted.

World War II changed my father’s life in many ways. If the war had not happened he could well have stayed in Glengarry for the rest of his life.
Not only did the war take him half way across the world to India but when the war ended and all the troops were demobbed, he found he was unable to return to the home that he loved and had missed so much. His mother and father had moved their home to Inverness, the nearest large town to Glengarry. He was devastated by this, he did not like Inverness and found it very difficult to fit in. Everyone’s war experiences had been different, some were lucky to have comrades living close by to discuss and share memories. He did not have this and as a result felt isolated and lonely. Where do you begin to describe India to someone who has never been there? It is difficult enough in 2004 with all the benefits of technology, but in 1946/47 I would imagine he would not even try.

After the war, the British government set up training schemes to assist young men to acquire trades quickly. Many had missed the opportunity to do their apprenticeships in the trades of their choices because of the war. My father trained to be a builder in what was to be an intensive six month course. After working in Inverness for a while he spotted an advert in the Inverness Courier. An American copper company was seeking employees for their copper smelter which lay 12,000ft up in the Andes of Peru. Along with his new found friend, Andy Thomson he took the bull by the horns and applied for jobs. That was in 1947 and he was to be in Peru until the end of 1959.

Peru must have been a fascinating place to be in the 1940s. Topographically it is a country that has it all – very high mountains, lush forests, jungle areas and a magnificent coastline with beautiful beaches bordering the Pacific coastline. Thor Heyerdahl embarked on his famous voyage to Easter Island from Callao, the port for Lima in 1947. Peru was one of the South American countries providing a haven for German Nazis escaping Europe at this time.

The American company that my father joined had established a community around the smelter in a small town called La Oroya, situated 12,000ft above sea level with housing, company stores, schools, hospital, church and golf club. The contract system meant that the men were given long leaves of up to three months at the end of a contract. It was during one of these leaves that he met my mother, back home in Inverness. On a later leave they got married. My mother was not too keen to rush back to Peru after getting married so they had a short spell in Scotland. During this time my brother Neil and I were born, there only being one year and eleven years between us. A few months after I was born, we were all heading back for South America. My mother travelled alone with us two, at a time when children were made to feel very unwelcome on ocean going liners. She arrived in Lima only to receive a telegram telling her that her mother had died of a sudden heart attack. Too far to go back, with no members of her family nearby to share her grief, it must have been a very difficult time for her.

However, what was very strange about this small community way up in the Andes of Peru was that there were many other families from Inverness living there. My mother had neighbours in Peru who had been her neighbours in Inverness when she was growing up. It was only one year later that my mother gave birth to a baby boy who unfortunately was deprived of oxygen at birth and died two days later. His little grave is in Oroya.

When my brother was in his eighth year my parents had to make a difficult decision. Would they send him one hundred miles away to boarding school in Lima or would my father quit his job and return to Scotland? They decided against the former and soon we were heading back home to Scotland.
Our voyage home was memorable because it was not long after the revolution in Cuba. The first time I had ever seen a man with long hair was when one of Castro’s men came on board our ship wearing dark green fatigues with his long hair pulled back in a pony tail under his cap. The fact that he was carrying a rifle did not seem to hold my fascination nearly as much as his hairstyle did.

Less than two years after returning from Peru, my father began to have problems with his lungs – problems that persisted until he died in 1979, less than twenty years after returning. We will never know whether it was because he was working at such a high altitude in Peru; or whether it was the untreated whooping cough he suffered during his military training in wintry Yorkshire in 1940; or living in a mud hut in India during the monsoons with no electricity or running water. What we do know is that both his parents lived till well past their eighties; his three sisters who are all in their seventies are very healthy and his brother who is eighty six still regularly performs splendidly as a gaelic singer at ceilidhs and the occasional television show.
We are all told about the number of men and women who are killed during a war and of the numbers who are injured and my father was luckier than the many who did not survive World War II but how often do we hear about how the course of people’s lives are so drastically altered as a result of war and of the ripple effects that touch so many?
© Anne Young November 2004

Anne Young
eanneyoung2003 at

Se also India 1945 - a memoir

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