WHEN looking for anti-German jingoism on social media, I didn’t have to search very far to find it.

To be fair, a wee bit of jingoism is unavoidable when it comes to major international competitions. Mostly, it really is just harmless fun. But there was an ugly side to a lot of social media content last night. Much of it related to World War Two, which is rarely a laughing matter (Dad’s Army aside).

I was struck this morning by a tweet from historian Ewan Gibbs, saying that it was a generation after the end of WW2 before “two world wars and one world cup” style revanchism took off, and that it has deepened ever since.

I think this is very true. Crude triumphalism has almost become the norm across sections of the British media. But we all have our own “war stories” as part of our family lore, and they usually tell a very different tale about those who lived through it.

Neither of my two grandfathers fought. On my dad’s side of the family, my grandpa was too old. But granny was a fluent French speaker and held open house for the Free French in Glasgow. And they gave away their children to keep them safe – dad and his two brothers being evacuated for most of the duration of the conflict. How difficult that must have been, with communication almost exclusively by letter. But around three and a half million children were separated from their families during this period.

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Others in the family did see service, including my dad’s Uncle Bert. He was a medic and one of the first to arrive at the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp when it was liberated. That experience stayed with him for the rest of his life.

On mum’s side of the family, my granda worked on trains as a fireman. This was a reserved occupation and a dangerous one. He didn’t often talk about it, but sometimes recounted a story about going hell for leather to reach a tunnel when they were being bombed, without being able to be completely sure there wasn’t already another train waiting there!

For those of us born on mainland Britain after WW2, the various wars the UK has engaged in have been fought over there – wherever “there” happened to be. But WW2 was fought at home, as well as overseas.

The National: Much of Exeter was destroyed in the Blitz of May 1942

I recall a woman in London I knew as a child. As a teenager, she lost most of her family during the early days of the Blitz. She was spared because she worked in a munitions factory overnight. One morning she came home to find her street bombed to the ground. She told me how she initially thought the people she saw walking around were ghosts, until she looked down at herself and realised that she was also covered in dust from the rubble. That’s why everyone looked grey.

The older I get, the greater my admiration for these people grows. Over the past year we have, to a lesser extent obviously, lived through a national crisis. Perhaps that experience gives us a deeper insight into the scale of their courage and endurance.

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But I worry that, as events become more distant over time, their memory might come to be represented by the kind of coarse xenophobia that has become common. That would be a travesty because, in my experience anyway, the people who lived through the war weren’t like that at all.

When I think of my grandparents’ generation, it brings to mind a kind of determined, low key cheerfulness that seemed to characterise them. You can see this stoicism portrayed in some of the war films of the period. It never really left them.

There was no triumphalism about them. They were rightly proud of beating Hitler but not boastful. Rather, they were determined to make the best of things now. Having gone through hell, they wanted to build back better, to use the current phrase.

These were the folk who gave us the NHS and the Welfare State after all. More than anything else, I think they wanted to create a better world for their children and grandchildren. They didn’t want us to endure what they had endured.

Rather than bombastic jingoism, that is their true legacy to their descendants. It’s a very fine one, and it’s how we should remember and honour them.