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"So, a Merry Xmas to all..."

These were the words that my father wrote to sign off his last letter home from Stalag Luft IV on 10th November 1944. His letter speaks of his frustration at being prisoners, missing home and his hunger for food but also his hopes for the future. It would be many months before he would see his family and friends again, and in the interim he would endure the unspeakable horrors of the Death March across Poland and Germany in the frozen winter of '44/'45. Many of his fellow prisoners perished from a combination of starvation, frostbite, dysentery and sheer exhaustion. "Never give up, no matter how bad things appear" is the advice he gave to me several times in my teens - it would be years before I was to uncover the full story behind his mantra.

Life is hard for many people at the moment, much harder for some than others, but all we can do is try and enjoy the moment. The past is gone, the future is not yet ours - all we ever have, really, is the 'right now'. So, wherever you are and whoever you are with I wish you all a very Merry Christmas and Peaceful New Year.

Learn from the past, observe the present, shape the future.

Martin Barratt

Christmas Eve 2022

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