Hamish Levack

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Conception

In his history of the Second World War, Winston Churchill[1] mentions that President Roosevelt wrote the following to him on the 25th of October 1943……

President Roosevelt to Prime Minister. It is a nuisenza to have influenza. No word from Uncle Joe yet. What say we next meet in North Africa soon….

This date was exactly nine months before I was born, so it can be assumed that while my parents were conceiving me the most powerful world leader was sneezing.

I make this connection partly because a children’s primer on sex that I read later on in life informed me that an orgasm was like a good sneeze. Illogically, instead of procreating, most of the world was intent on killing at this important moment. Yet, to their credit, belligerents making up the two camps were at least making some effort to work in unison. As Roosevelt’s letter indicates, he and Churchill were planning a meeting to better co-ordinate the war efforts of the Allies, but coincidently at much the same time, the two principal Axis powers, Germany and Japan, were also undergoing a difficult but successful combined operation.

In the Indian Ocean, and less than a hundred miles away from the Mauritian bedroom where I was probably conceived, Subhas Chandra Bose[2], the charismatic president of the Indian Independence League, was transhipped in a rubber dingy from U-180 to I-29, a Japanese submarine, to take command of 40,000 Indian soldiers who had switched sides following Britain’s defeat at Singapore.

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