For many of the Third Age, especially those at the top of the age range, there will have been a sickening sense of deja vu at the events of the past week.

In 1938, the feeling of an impending storm was everywhere as Hitler went about his invasion of smaller, weaker countries.

But we all believed Neville Chamberlain when he waved his piece of paper and declared he had achieved "peace in our time".

I suppose most of us believed it because anything else was unthinkable. We were still close enough to the First World War - the "war to end all wars" - and there were still plenty of old soldiers who could remember the horrors of that conflict for any new clash of arms to be greeted like something out of the Boys' Own Adventure comic.

Yet today there are many homes throughout the land where a son or a father has had to go off to serve in a war that is looking all the more likely and is none of our choosing.

But this time there are daughters and mothers as well and for some reason that seems to make it even worse.

It has always been the role of women to be the nurturers of life, not the takers, but this time there is no passive role for the female members of the forces.

Of course there have always been women in the nursing services, many of whom did magnificent work in front-line hospitals and ambulances but now they will be there to take part in the fighting.

I find that thought very disturbing because it seems to me to negate our role in life.

If I say a woman's basic role in life is to have children and bring them up to have decent standards so they, in turn, can train a future generation, I am sure I shall incur the wrath of many feminists who will no doubt tell me very forcibly that women's lives are much more than such a narrow path.

The basic fact remains that men cannot conceive and bring children into the world and we can.

There was a whole generation of women after the terrible slaughter of the First World War for whom there were no husbands and another generation who grew up without fathers. Do we want a generation without mothers as well?

The papers are full of items about Tony Blair rushing round the world to talk to other leaders, especially in the United States.

Can we hope that he is telling them to slow down this headlong rush to conflict?

Reading the stories in the Press, it does not look as though we are much more prepared now than we were in 1938, with boots that fall apart in desert conditions, radios which don't work properly and troops buying their own bedding rolls because the standard issue is too bulky.

For those of us with sons and daughters of the right age to be called up to serve, it is an anxious time. In many cases it will be grandchildren as well as children who are involved so we are looking at the possible destruction of more than one generation. Those of us of the Third Age may have to again face the loss of family members.

As some of you will know only too well because of personal bereavements, you never expect your children to die before you. If war with Iraq goes ahead, more and more of us may face that bitter pill.

There is no doubt Saddam Hussein is an evil man but whether Britain should lend its name to a conflict inspired by a third party without the sanction of the United Nations is another matter.

For our generation the nightmare may be starting again. We can only hope sanity prevails before another generation has to go through what we did.