Lest we forget
It is very easy to forget if it doesn't appear to touch our lives in an immediate way. It is very easy to think of it as beyond what we know or understand but deep down we all know and we all understand. To give your life for your country is the ultimate sacrifice and it must never be forgotten. How many of us would be prepared to do that?
For me the poetic lines that emerged from the First World War captures the sacrifice the best.
Siegfried Sassoon (1886-1967)
"How to Die"
Dark clouds are smouldering into red
While down the craters morning burns.
The dying soldier shifts his head
To watch the glory that returns;
He lifts his fingers toward the skies
Where holy brightness breaks in flame;
Radiance reflected in his eyes,
And on his lips a whispered name.
You'd think, to hear some people talk,
That lads go West with sobs and curses,
And sullen faces white as chalk,
Hankering for wreaths and tombs and hearses.
But they've been taught the way to do it
Like Christian soldiers; not with haste
And shuddering groans; but passing through it
With due regard for decent taste
Thousands of young lives lost and for a slow and painful gain. Advance was slow and victories painful but still the young men went 'up and over' on command. The fear must have been in their minds and their soul but still they went. Those behind would have heard the death and known what was ahead but still they went over.
It was a war to end all wars except it didn't and just over 20 years later the world was at it again. The horrors of the Second World War might have been different but they were just as keenly felt. The bomber pilots who never returned, the families killed by a direct hit in the Blitz, the prisoner of wars captured and lost forever. But the Second World War brought the Holocaust and it doesn't get any worse than that. It is just too difficult to comprehend and the evil is quite beyond words.
Modern conflicts are different again but still the sacrifice is made. The bomb disposal soldier who risks it all on behalf of the many, the befriending solider who is gunned down in cold blood by the enemy in disguise, the soldiers in the best armed vehicle technology can produce blown up by roadside bombs that know no boundaries. It is all conflict.
With no one left in our country that fought in the First World War we have to turn to the testimony and we have to listen and learn. We have no choice and we should not have any choice. Place yourself in a filthy cold trench where the stench of death is your constant companion. The command comes to go up and over.....could you do it?
These sacrifices were made so that we may live as a free nation. Modern conflict is so that we may live as a safe nation. So, today I take some time out of my day to pay my own silent tribute to all of those souls that have been lost so that I might live as I do. It is not much I know, but I am not sure there is anything in this world more important.
May they always know we are grateful. May they always know we care. Xx