‘They fought for our free­dom and peace’

Ac­claimed chil­dren’s au­thor of War Horse, Michael Mor­purgo, on the debt we owe those who suf­fered.

Good Housekeeping (UK) - - 59 -

Dur­ing the last four years, we have tried to re­mem­ber how it was for those be­fore us who lived, suf­fered and so of­ten died from 1914 to 1918. Of course, we can­not re­ally re­mem­ber any­one who lived then. We can read their diaries, their po­ems, their letters home, we can look at flick­er­ing film, at faded pho­to­graphs and at the graves and memo­ri­als. We can visit those beau­ti­fully kept ceme­ter­ies and read the names and ages of those who died, the coun­tries and reg­i­ments they fought for and how old they were when they were killed. We can visit the bat­tle­fields and mu­se­ums, read the his­tory books and the nov­els and see the plays and films.

All this can help us imag­ine how their lives must have been. But try as we might, we can­not re­mem­ber them, not any more. They are gone. They are all un­known to us now. They might be from our fam­ily, our school, our street, our vil­lage or town, but as a great poem from John Mccrae, who died dur­ing the war, tells us:

They died young, no more dawns or sun­sets, loves and lives un­ful­filled. They didn’t die for ‘some des­per­ate glory’, but in hope and be­lief that they were fight­ing for a cause that would bring peace to their fam­i­lies and to the world. They fought for our free­dom and our peace. For that we must be eter­nally grate­ful. To keep the faith with them, we must guard the free­dom, keep the peace they have given us and never take ei­ther for granted. Poppy Field by Michael Mor­purgo and il­lus­trated by Michael Fore­man (Scholas­tic) is out now

We are the Dead. Short days ago We lived, felt dawn, saw sun­set glow, Loved and were loved, and now we lie In Flan­ders field.

Last­ing trib­ute: crosses at the me­mo­rial in Ver­dun, France

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