We will re­mem­ber them

Country Life Every Week - - Contents -

On novem­ber 11, thou­sands of ser­vices will take place around Bri­tain, be­side sim­ple vil­lage memo­ri­als as well as the Ceno­taph, to hon­our the Fallen and in hope that such sac­ri­fice will never be seen again. The 100th an­niver­sary of the Ar­mistice, which ended hos­til­i­ties in the First World War, will have a spe­cial res­o­nance, but the cen­te­nary has also raised ques­tions about the con­tin­u­ance of these rites.

They be­gan as a re­sponse to the car­nage of the First World War in the—sadly—vain hope that Europe would not have to suf­fer such dev­as­ta­tion again. That gen­er­a­tion is long gone and one might have thought that pub­lic ap­petite for Re­mem­brance would have waned, but it hasn’t been the case.

Al­though at­ten­dance may have fallen off in the hippy-minded, flower-strewn 1970s, when mem­o­ries of even the Sec­ond World War were fad­ing and Bri­tain was en­ter­ing an EU in which the old foe of Ger­many was a prom­i­nent mem­ber, the de­cline has re­cently been re­versed.

An ob­vi­ous rea­son is that con­flict hasn’t stopped. De­spite our di­min­ished role on the world stage and cuts to the Armed Forces, Bri­tain has been in a state of al­most con­stant for­eign en­gage­ment since the Falk­lands War. Mer­ci­fully, the num­bers in­volved have been much lower, but the roll call on some war memo­ri­als has been re­opened and we have be­come much more aware of the psy­cho­log­i­cal legacy.

There’s a guilty sense that the true cost of war has not been equally shared; most peo­ple are com­pletely unaf­fected by the mis­sions fought in Iraq and Afghanistan, which had lit­tle di­rect im­pact on those un­con­nected to ser­vice­men and women. How­ever, there may also be a dan­ger that Re­mem­brance be­comes in­fected with nostalgia: a kind of Down­ton Abbey in khaki.

This is a British sus­cep­ti­bil­ity: we’re apt to see ro­mance in the past, how­ever bit­ter the cir­cum­stances. For some, there will be a temp­ta­tion to in­dulge this at­ti­tude af­ter Brexit. Once more, Bri­tain will stand alone —for bet­ter or worse.

In­stead of look­ing back to a du­bi­ous golden age, let’s hope this year’s Re­mem­brance in­spires a dif­fer­ent sen­ti­ment: re­mem­ber­ing not only war, but the peace that fol­lowed it. It may have been an im­per­fect peace— the fault of politi­cians—but many pri­vate in­di­vid­u­als sought to heal the trau­mas suf­fered by all those who were af­fected.

Among them were the sis­ters Eglan­tyne Jebb and Dorothy Bux­ton, who founded Save the Chil­dren in 1919. They wanted to help the starv­ing chil­dren, the ac­ci­den­tal vic­tims of war. Un­for­tu­nately, the char­ity’s work is far from over. In fu­ture, it would be ap­pro­pri­ate to make such bod­ies a fo­cus of Re­mem­brance as well.

This year, let’s re­mem­ber not only war, but the peace that fol­lowed it

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