How the War Became Our Family Affair; Answers to Correspondents

Daily Mail (London), May 21, 2005 | Go to article overview

How the War Became Our Family Affair; Answers to Correspondents


QUESTION What has been the strangest, or farthest, place from home that somebody has bumped into a familiar face?

FURTHER to earlier answers, what must be one of the most surprising meetings in history involved my father and two of my brothers.

During World War II, my father, Frank Fletcher Snr, was touring with the Band of the Welsh Regiment in 1944, and went to a military hospital in Ostend in Belgium. Incredibly, he met his son, Frank Jnr, who had been wounded on the advance to Germany with the Royal Berkshire Regiment.

At the same time, another son, Joseph, in the Royal Navy aboard an MTB (Motor Torpedo Boat), came into Ostend for some R&R.

He was amazed to find not only his father, but his brother as well.

Dennis Fletcher, Wareham, Dorset.

QUESTION Did the Eskimos have a practice of putting the elderly in small boats with a little bit of food and casting them adrift to die?

ALMOST certainly not - it would have been a waste of food and of a good boat. Any society in which senilicide (the killing of its old and infirm) has taken place has almost always been forced into this situation by the need for the strongest in the group to survive.

The Eskimo populations of North America have a long history of, to put it bluntly, killing granny.

This mainly took place among the Inuit of Greenland and in the east and north of Canada, when there was a need for fewer mouths to feed. It was never seen as murder: indeed, it was almost always granny herself who suggested it.

The usual method of death was a stab in the heart by a close relative, such as a son. Also documented was smothering, being sealed in a snow hole, or by the group simply moving on.

The custom began to disappear as the Inuit populations became Christianised.

The notion that the person was put on an ice floe and simply floated away is very much a Western idea, and stems from books such as Top Of The World by the Swiss writer Hans Ruesch in 1951.

It was turned into a film, The Savage Innocents, starring Anthony Quinn.

Kim Smith, Cambridge.

QUESTION When I was studying economics, mention was made of 19thcentury Russian economist Kondratieff, who predicted cycles. Do his predictions still hold up today?

A PREVIOUS answer noted the economic up and downwave cycle propounded by Robert C. …

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