Reflections on the Armistice centenary
No doubt many of us have been reflecting on the horrors of the First World War following the solemnities of this weekend. I attended a wreath-laying ceremony in a Dorset town for 163 who died, including a boy who was killed on the last day of the War, and in the evening read the recently rediscovered account of my great-uncle. Coming from a Quaker family, he wouldn’t fight, but he raised his own brigade of Cornish engineers, who clearly did sterling service. The evidence is that he won MC and bar. Reading this account at the same time as watching the various docudramas with footage of shells exploding in the middle of marching columns, flooded trenches and corpses brings home why this war remains even after 100 years the one which cannot be forgotten. Was anybody else brought up on Flanders and Swann’s song ‘The War of 14 18’? However, I was also struck by a comment on the radio that perhaps after the centenary celebrations it is time to move on. When I was young, there were plenty alive who had fought and suffered in that war: today there aren’t that many alive who were actively involved in the Second World War, and of course none in the first. It was heartening to see the turn-out at the Dorset wreath-laying. The broad street was full for several hundred yards. Is there a way to turn that gratitude into something for the future, not the past?