It was saddening to read about the death of Eileen Nearne, aged 89, who had lived a reclusive life for 20 years and had few if any friends and a niece who lived abroad and last managed to visit her 6 months before she died.
It’s always sad to see someone left so alone in the world, but doubly so with Nearne as it turned out she was a war hero in the Second World War and none of her neighbours knew. A member of the Special Operations Executive during the war, she had parachuted behind German lines, been captured twice and talked her way out of trouble before being incarcerated in a labour camp – which she then escaped from and went on the run until the American troops arrived.
This modest woman spoke to no one about her exploits in the last 20 years of her life and was only saved from a council grave by the discovery of wartime French currency, her MBE and various letters that have now been sent to the Ministry of Defence.
But saddest of all is the sort of stories that are appearing in the tabloids at the moment – Wayne Rooney’s sex life still rules the roost. Once, someone like Eileen Nearne would have commanded their front pages – hers was just the sort of heroism that they used to adore. Now, her heroism is worth nothing to them as it comes without sex, drugs or celebrity to back it up.
They are responding to the need of people obsessed with position to read about themselves or be read about in lieu of a life of one’s own. But of what value are the women who prey on footballers – and the footballers themselves – by comparison to a woman who fought her way across Europe in he name of protecting Britain and then never said a word about it? Her modesty contrasts shockingly with the vulgar and immodest behaviour of people infested with the most toxic forms of celebrity. There seems to be little of that sort of heroism left, in Britain at least.
We will all end up as dust – but it is truly sad that someone as brave and selfless as Eileen Nearne should pass almost unmourned in the newspapers that purport to speak for the majority of the people.