Sac­ri­fices we must hon­our

The People - - NEWS FEATURES -

IN Au­gust 2014 I sat in West­min­ster Abbey be­side the tomb of the Un­known War­rior.

A sin­gle lamp shone above his rest­ing place and, at the mo­ment the Great War be­gan a cen­tury ear­lier, its flick­er­ing flame was snuffed out.

Dark­ness de­scended as it did across Europe when that bloody con­flict be­gan.

And in the fol­low­ing four years, 888,246 Bri­tish and Com­mon­wealth ser­vice­men were killed – each of them a son, hus­band, fa­ther or brother...the light of some­one’s life.

Mil­lions who came home af­ter wit­ness­ing the hor­ror could, or would not, talk about their ex­pe­ri­ences and so their loved ones never truly un­der­stood their sac­ri­fice.

Like my own fam­ily. My ma­ter­nal grand­fa­ther, Luke Jarvis, was a pri­vate in the Som­er­set Light In­fantry and told his six chil­dren only that he’d “been at Wipers” – the Bat­tle of Ypres.

Af­ter his death Mum found her­self nurs­ing an old sol­dier who’d served with Luke in Flan­ders – and dis­cov­ered he’d been the bat­tal­ion’s top sniper.

Reg Bletchly, my pa­ter­nal grand­fa­ther, was a trum­peter with the 1st Royal Glouces­ter Hus­sars.

He was shot in the hand and in­valided, but if my dad ever knew the story he didn’t pass it on. My grand­fa­thers sur­vived but Pri­vate Luke and Trum­peter Reg will al­ways be shad­ows. There But Not There, like the poignant sil­hou­ettes of ser­vice­men be­side the Un­known War­rior’s tomb and other sites re­cently.

Like the pale faces of Tom­mies in 600 hours of ar­chive footage edited tnto a remarkable film called They Shall Not Grow Old, air­ing on BBC2 tonight.

But clever colouris­ing and 3D tech­nol­ogy turn those mono­chrome ghosts back into liv­ing, breath­ing men. That film and dozens of other Ar­mistice pro­jects have ed­u­cated mil­lions about their fore­fa­thers’ roles.

More than 35 mil­lion peo­plein­clud­ing 7.5 mil­lion un­der 25s, have been in­volved in centenary events.

And ances­try web­sites have seen a surge in num­bers prob­ing fam­ily war records.

Like my brother who, while re­search­ing Luke and Reg, dis­cov­ered four great un­cles who also served. Tonight I’ll re­mem­ber our war­rior fore­fa­thers and their still-un­known sac­ri­fices at a cer­e­mony where a Bea­con of Light is fired.

A flame of peace, and our prom­ise never to for­get the dark­ness.

SHOCK: Peter in hospi­tal

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