Every year I take the time to celebrate, or is it commemorate, the lives of those who died in the defence of our country and our freedom. The Lost Generation of WW1, and all those who have followed since then. Misguided as War undoubtedly is, we really cannot deny that those who have fought for us, and for King or Queen and Country, have been both heroic and tragic. The Remembrance Ceremony never fails to bring me to tears, and this year was no exception.
As it happened, I was driving up to London yesterday, to deliver Son's desk to him. This is the old oak desk which matches his chest of drawers, and lived in his bedroom in Cambridge. And since the chest of drawers has already been moved to the London flat, it seemed proper that the desk should follow - especially as it's the perfect size for his new computer. So this was why I was sitting in a traffic jam in my car with tears streaming down my face, and trying to sing "Oh God our help in Ages past". I'm relatively fine until it gets to the verse which says " Time like an ever-rolling stream bears all her Sons away" and then I dissolve. It's the simple thought of all those wonderful young men: sons, brothers, fathers, lovers, husbands, whose lives were wasted in the pursuit of power. What a terrible thing. It did make me feel very fortunate to have a Son who is (hopefully) in no danger of having to go to war!
I listened as the service continued, and was reminded of something I heard last week on Woman's Hour. Apparently, had the dead of the Wars been able to march past the Cenotaph (a rather macabre thought) it would take three and a half days! I found that dreadfully sad - how could such a waste of young life ever be justified? It was also said that Vera Brittain, famous writer of that WW1 period, who worked as a nurse in the war, didn't lift her head from her duties on Armistice Day because she had nothing to celebrate. She had lost a brother, three close friends, and her fiance in that dreadful War. And sadly her experience was pretty typical. My Grandfather also served in that War, and was very lucky to survive it. My Mother vividly remembered his homecoming in 1919, after five years away. (She was born in 1910, so would have been four when he left and nine when he came home.) They lived in Tottenham, and she recalled that the men from his regiment all came down the road together - those that had survived of course. They were all so infested with lice that they had to strip naked at the garden gates, leave all their clothes and kit to be burned and have their heads shaved to avoid contaminating their families. I imagine that the kettles boiled and the tin baths were well used that night. And my Mother remembered being given the top of his boiled egg as a treat!
Ah well, another year has slipped away, and have we learned anything about the futility of War? Of course not. Just look at Afghanistan. Last week alone more of our brave young men, and women, lost their lives. And so it goes...