Still touched by the events of the First World War

Buckinghamshire Advertiser - - COMMUNITY -

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.

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