This tune always had my grandfather weeping, sometimes uncontrollably. It took me a long time to understand why…
He was never at “The Front”. He tried many times, by all accounts, but he fell into that category of the lucky few, though I doubt they considered themselves thus, whose occupations were too valuable on the home front to allow them to go to war.
He fed the nation, supplied endless chords of wood for the “war effort”, and to heat the hearths of the nation, whilst his contemporaries trooped off to some distant land, high in spirit and conviction for something which, in hindsight, held little reward for them individually.
Most (more than 90 on the memorial plus 20 unaccounted for) did not return from that first conflict, and those that did had been changed forever by the experience. That a second should come so quickly on the heels of the first seemed inconceivable. Two generations torn apart by political madness. Two generations bound by grief beyond measure.
There is, of course, a memorial to the fallen in every town and village in the country. This one is no more or less important than any other, except it does contain the names of a great-uncle and the man who would have been my other grandfather had he made it back.
There aren’t even that many names on it, a mere 13 from the first war. When it is considered, however, that this is the toll from a village numbering around 60, some sense of the impact on communities across the land can be gauged.
100 years later, the impetus, born of grief, which saw these memorials raised, is in danger of being lost. The men and women they commemorate are just a list of names, without context, or meaning for those who walk past daily. Within the cossetted lives we now take for granted, it is all too easy to lose sight of what the ultimate sacrifice really means. We do so at out peril.
The eleventh itself, is usually my busy day. That night is invariably awash with bloodied souls marching towards a home they have still to find. On the weekend that is set aside for the purpose of remembrance, I’d like to share a couple of pieces that touch the heart of why forgetting should never be an option: