Still touched by the events of the First World War
DURING August I attended two constituency events, at Burnham and Beaconsfield, where local communities remembered the centenary of the First World War and reflected on its impact on local people. The Burnham event was organised by the Royal British Legion, which does so much to help former service people and their families.
Nationally there was a moving commemoration when people turned off the lights in their homes, as a re-imagining of the comment made on the eve of the conflict by Lord Grey, the Foreign Secretary, who said: “The lamps are going out all over Europe; we shall not see them lit again in our lifetime.”
The all-encroaching darkness of that war, a century ago, affected every community, as more men enlisted to serve in the armed forces and many women assumed new responsibilities outside the home as well as in it.
There will be many events in Buckinghamshire of which one, during September, was the “A Community Remembers” day organised by Denham Parish Council, together with many continuing exhibitions at local museums.
These often involve contributions from local people with personal memories of how the war affected their families. It is very moving that so many families do have memories of young men who did not return from the war and who thus never had the chance to add different branches to the family tree. That absence is still felt, including in my own family.
For that reason, it is notable that the commemoration events are involving young people, so that they can seek to engage imaginatively with what life was like for their contemporaries a century ago.
As well as school pupils having the chance to visit the World War I battlefields, there are projects like musical events. Digitised versions of national records are being opened up to give access to information from that time. Furthermore this is a two-way process, as individuals will have the chance to add their own research into these archives.