WWi an­niver­sary winds down

Tillsonburg News - - OPINION - Lau­rel beechey

the last 100 days of the 100th an­niver­sary of WWi are slowly wind­ing down. ev­ery day, 100 years ago, the al­lies pushed back the en­emy and ev­ery­day more died on both sides of lines not only sol­diers and mil­i­tary per­son­nel but the people whose coun­tries were de­stroyed by this atro­cious war.

one would like to think that if the people over the last 100 years knew just how ter­ri­ble this war re­ally was it might have been ‘the war to end all wars.’ but the people who re­ally knew, the men and women who were over there, couldn’t talk about it. there was no way to de­scribe what they had seen for there had never been a war like this be­fore. those at home on both sides had no tele­vi­sion or ra­dio. they hadn’t watched movies, tele­vi­sion or com­puter games where people were slaugh­tered, al­beit more neatly than on the bat­tle­field. How do you com­pre­hend the death of 16 mil­lion people and 37 mil­lion civil­ian and mil­i­tary ca­su­al­ties? How could then com­pre­hend those num­bers 100 years ago.

books were pub­lished, with lots of pho­tos, but that doesn’t work like youtube to­day. For decades the av­er­age per­son knew lit­tle to noth­ing about that war.

WWii was a dif­fer­ent story, you could at least see pro­pa­ganda news­reels at the movie house. this war was ter­ri­ble too but the world had learned a lot and tech­nol­ogy boomed af­ter the first world war, it was not the same in how it was fought. they lit­er­ally and metaphor­i­cally had come out of the trenches by then.

i per­son­ally think that more in­for­ma­tion has be­come avail­able on WWi in the last five years than the com­bi­na­tion of ev­ery­thing for all the pre­vi­ous years be­tween.

i should qual­ify this from a Cana­dian knowl­edge stand point, for our farms were not bat­tle­fields. ev­ery time our farm­ers plow their fields they don’t have to clear out WW1, live ord­nance and call the bomb dis­posal to come and re­move it from the racks on the road where it is stacked for easy pick up. they don’t find the bones.

our con­struc­tion work­ers while pre­par­ing sites for new build­ings or even sew­ers don’t find ar­ti­facts and bones. While re­search­ing one of my WW1 pre­sen­ta­tions i note that in 2015 while digging in a gas line, con­struc­tion work­ers found 19 sets of re­mains: 14 were Cana­dian, 2 ger­man, 2 bri­tish and un­derneath a grave dat­ing to the ro­man em­pire. each year around 60 bod­ies of First World War sol­diers of all na­tion­al­i­ties are found in the old bat­tle­fields.

thank good­ness there are people like andrew robertshaw, a world fa­mous bri­tish mil­i­tary His­to­rian in the united King­dom, who has spear­headed nu­mer­ous ar­chae­o­log­i­cal in­ves­ti­ga­tions along the West­ern Front. He is one of many who have now seen the re­sults of that war up close and per­sonal. thank good­ness he has shared his knowl­edge with the world in books, pre­sen­ta­tions and con­sul­ta­tions. most war movies are not grounded in the facts how­ever his ex­per­tise was used by steven spiel­berg in “War Horse” where he was a mil­i­tary advisory and used from the be­gin­ning when the script was be­ing writ­ten to the last day of shoot­ing the movie.

mr. robertshaw, is also a reg­u­lar con­sul­tant and on-screen ex­pert for a host of tV and ra­dio shows, in­clud­ing time team, the trench de­tec­tives and Who do you think you are?

oh, if only robin barker-James were still here to meet this man. mr. robertshaw is build­ing a WW1 trench replica so school chil­dren can bet­ter un­der­stand the hor­rors of this war. per­haps he got the idea from robin?

Well, guess who is com­ing to till­son­burg? the man him­self! mr robertshaw will be vis­it­ing till­son­burg on Wed­nes­day, oc­to­ber 17, at 6:00 p.m., to do a pre­sen­ta­tion at our Var­navair le­gion on World War 1 bat­tle­field arche­ol­ogy, and it will include a din­ner. this event is be­ing spear­headed by the till­son­burg mil­i­tary His­tory Club with the as­sis­tance of branch 153 royal Cana­dian le­gion and the His­tor­i­cal so­ci­ety. a lim­ited num­ber of tick­ets will be avail­able at the mu­seum. please con­tact the mu­seum at 519-842-2294 to get your name on the ticket list. Cost is $25. tick­ets are al­ready go­ing fast which is why i am writ­ing about this so early.

till­son­burg is part of a Cana­dian tour from Cal­gary to st John’s, new­found­land that he is do­ing from oct 13-27th. What a won­der­ful way to hon­our those how fought for us dur­ing that last few days of the 100th an­niver­sary.

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