Being a history nut, the recent deluge of programmes and articles on World War One has absolutely fascinated me.
They Shall Grow Not Old, Peter Jackson’s remarkable conversion of old silent, black-and-white newsreel footage into a full-colour documentary with sound, for instance, did more than any dry history lesson to bring the horrors of the front to life. If you get a chance to see it, I heartily recommend it.
Yet even that tour de force has been eclipsed by an astonishing website, A Street Near You (www.astreetnearyou. org), which is a timely reminder that the internet is good for more than people screaming at each other about Brexit.
It’s a website that allows you to type in your postcode, and it will then bring up a map which tells you who died in active service in World War One in your area, giving you their age, occupation and address. With a few keystrokes, the very human impact of the conflict is rammed home.
In the next door house to mine, 32-year-old Regimental Sergeant Major Richard Bell of the Highland Light Infantry fell in 1916, leaving behind a wife and children. Two doors down, 37-year-old Private Archibald Colley of the Machine Gun Corps (Infantry) died in 1918, and also left behind a wife and children. Within 200 yards of my home, 27 men died, most of them leaving behind grieving young families.
It made me realise the scale of suffering and losses, and how rare the so-called Thankful Villages – those which lost none of their men – really were. And it made me thankful.