January 21st marks the 4th anniversary of Martin’s death on the Hebrew calendar. It is also the Israeli holiday of Tu B’Shvat, or the 15th day of the Hebrew month of Shvat, the holiday of planting trees. It is the only Israeli holiday that is not biblical, historical or political, but rather a time to rejoice in the rebirth of spring, and the planting of trees for future generations. It is perhaps rather a fitting day for Martin to be remembered – he who turned a veritable forest of trees into books!
In 2014, Richard Langworth, the then-editor of the Churchill periodical Finest Hour, approached me about the idea of doing a festscrift edition in honour of Martin. It was to be Richard’s final edition before he passed on the editorial reins to his successor David Freeman. I was very touched by the idea and even made suggestions as to who Richard might approach for articles in the realm of Martin’s other historical work. People responded with great enthusiasm: the battlefield guidebook experts Major and Mrs Holt, the former British Prime Ministers Gordon Brown and John Major, the former British Ambassador to Israel Matthew Gould, the Holocaust historian David Patterson, the former Soviet Jewry historian and scholar Michael Beizer, along with the Churchill scholars and colleagues.
The edition arrived in the autumn of 2014, in what turned out to be a few months before Martin died. I read bits of it to him and he seemed to take it in. I remember sitting next to him one afternoon, the winter sun flooding in us, reading one article after the other. I worried about tiring him and at one point I asked: “Should I keep reading?” The response came quickly: “Yes”.
Aside from his incapacities, Martin had lived long enough to be aware of the impact he had made, the contribution he had made to historical and geographic scholarship, the many friends who came together to remember what he had achieved. For a man whose whole life was words, to be unable to communicate was no doubt frustrating. Yet there he was, alive, and able to take in what those who came to honour him had written.
In our busy lives we tend to forget to say thank you to the people who have made an impact on our lives and then suddenly it can be too late. So, from me, thank you to those in their hundreds who stood by me when Martin was unwell, who encouraged me and gave me great strength especially on the days I struggled to put one foot in front of the other. And thank you to those who make your lives meaningful.
Read : The Finest Hour
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