The Great War began on August 4th 1914, the armistice coming four long years later on November 11th 1918. To remember the fallen of this and other conflicts we met before the war memorial this afternoon. A very large crowd attended, possibly slightly larger than last years, and correct observation was performed. The procedure followed routine, a loud voice, hidden by the crowds, called the uniformed ones to attention. Standards were raised, the 'last post' blown then a 'stand at ease' ordered. The vicar said a few prayers, a few words were said, then wreaths were laid, first by the dignitaries then by others in order. All in all the usual short gathering. However I was feeling a bit let down as I realised that this type of meeting misses one thing only - the names of the fallen! Possibly because I have lived with them for a while I find a gap, an emptiness where each individual ought to be. No need for all names just one or two and a word on their deeds to enlighten the people. This brings the individual home to us not just a name.
The gathering of men in uniform used to be common when I were a lad today it is something unusual. Unless you live in a 'Barrack' town you rarely see uniformed men. National service and of course war itself meant such sights were part of daily life not any more. Terrorist threats have meant some units are not allowed to wear their uniform in the the streets in some areas! I am quite surprised some of the uniformed organisations still manage to enroll so many as the costs must be high however the Air Training Corps members seen here have always been popular, possibly because they might get into an airplane occasionally.
The police (well PCSO's) were in attendance to control the traffic for the march past, much smaller crowd than last year when several full police officers were in control. However the local football team were playing a major cup tie at the same time, and losing 0-3 last time I heard, so that is where the constabulary would have operated. Rarely do remembrance crowds get out of hand.
From the rear you do not get much of a view of the dignitaries but at least the sound system is good. However I wonder about the names on the memorial and their connection to the people in the gardens. Many will be there because their child is in the scouts/guides or whatever, others because a relative, whom they may have just discovered is named thereon. I just wish I could have spoken to some but I recognised only two people in the throng.
So we have remembered, poppies have been worn, memorials attended, research begun, bands have played, men have marched, and life will return to normal now. For those in 1926 who attended the unveiling of the memorial the thoughts may have been different. The names were of sons, husbands, friends, and family. They left a gap, sometimes a huge gap that was never to be filled again. Many women struggled to raise the family afterwards, many a heart mourned until their dying day, many a child had their life dented by loss, but the individual just had to 'get on with it,' there was no other choice. The s'stiff upper lip' and many others being in similar troubles gave no opening for self pity or depression, life had to go on.
At least here was a place to remember, many knew only the name of the memorial somewhere in France or Belgium where their loved one was commemorated, usually they could not afford to visit. At least if he lay in a cemetery the relative felt he was taken care off but just a name among the thousands on a memorial is so cold and somewhat inhuman, a soldiers relatives require more. Some on the memorial lie far off in Gallipoli or Jerusalem, during the second war some fell further away in Asia, others fell from the skies lost for ever.
For us today who did not know them personally we can move on easily, only the old remember them, they cannot forget. However they too have had their life, they too have seen younger folks suffer in Northern Ireland, Iraq and Afghanistan, let alone the many 'small' and 'forgotten' wars since 1945. Do you realise that so many people today do not know what the 'Cold Was' was like? To them it is a History lesson, to us it was always in the background. Life moves on indeed!