Daisy’s dad and grandad, John and Joe Hogan, spoke to the class about two of the most recent wars that the British army has been involved in. John fought in the war in Iraq (2003) and Joe the Gulf War in Kuwait and Iraq (1990/91). Both vividly remember the date and the moment that they left their families to travel to the war zone. For both John and Joe, leaving beloved families for an unknown amount of time (possibly, even, never to return) was the hardest part of their experience of war. Receiving mail, with news from home, was what they looked forward to more than anything. Joe also spoke about how much he had enjoyed receiving letters at Christmas time, sent by school children to the British forces.
John and Joe served in the Royal Engineers. John helped to lay roads across the desert to enable the army to move equipment and Joe constructed improvised air raid shelters from oil drums, concrete, sheet metal and sand bags, and helped with the water supply, including building a very popular desert shower.
There were frightening periods of fighting, of course, sometimes lasting minutes, sometimes hours. Colleagues were killed. But they said their time at war was not all bad. There was excitement and adventure and camaraderie between the soldiers. John told us about lizard races in the desert. He also told us how to solve the practical problem of cooling drinks in one of the hottest places on Earth. What you can do is put your water bottle inside an old sock, pee over the sock, and then tie the sock to the wing mirror of a vehicle and drive across the desert. As the liquid on the sock evaporates into the hot and dry desert air, heat energy flows out of the bottle and the water cools.
John and Joe answered lots of insightful questions from the class, openly and honestly, and we were all left with a deeper understanding of the experience of soldiers in wartime and in the conflicts in Iraq and Kuwait in particular. The experience of soldiers in war obviously changes over time. When asked about one thing that they would change about their experiences (other than the wars not starting in the first place), John’s response was that he would have liked to have had the ‘face time’ technology that soldiers can use to keep in touch with loved ones from conflict zones today.