‘They fought for our freedom and peace’
Acclaimed children’s author of War Horse, Michael Morpurgo, on the debt we owe those who suffered.
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