4 August 2014

Lest We Forget


Today is the centenary anniversary of the start of the First World War, for Britain, and I feel very much like I should be wearing a poppy. As I was a history student for my entire time at high school, the facts, figures, places, dates and events of WW1 have long been drummed into me. There was the essay on Field Marshall Haig, the coursework on the causes of the war, horror stories and documentaries about the reality of life in the trenches. Hearing the name Franz Ferdinand will always conjure up an image of the Archduke for me first, and the band of the same name second, so my history teachers can sleep soundly in the knowledge that they taught me well! But what really brought it home for me and made me think about all the personal loss and individual stories, was visiting the battlefields and cemeteries as part of a visit to France and Belgium with my school when I was in Year 10.

I find it so strange to think that I've stood in the field where the Battle of the Somme took place. I remember our tour guide asking us to stand and just look, take in the vastness of the wide open space. He then asked us to imagine being a soldier, going 'over the top' of the trenches and facing the open field. There was quite literally no place to hide, not a single tree or bush to hide behind to dodge oncoming bullets and attacks. It must have been terrifying. Visiting the cemeteries was really emotional too. I remember very clearly thinking that no matter how many times you could hear the figure of how many lives were lost, you can't truly appreciate the sheer scale of loss until you see all the graves lined up and knowing that each one represents just a single person. Tyne Cot cemetery was the biggest one we visited, I think. There are 8907 British soldiers buried here, and that's only the individuals who were found and were able to be buried.

The most poignant and moving experience of this trip for me was hearing The Last Post played at Menin Gate Memorial in Ypres, Belgium. This was the bugle call played to mark the end of each day of service during the war and it's played here every night at 8pm.

History is something I've always been interested in (OCR, I know it was a valiant effort on your part to squash my enthusiasm at A-Level, but you did not succeed!) particularly both World Wars, and I think it's really important that people continue to learn about them and the sacrifices that were made. I decided to share my experiences here by way of commemorating in my own way and if I can, I'd like to encourage anyone reading this to take a minute or two to reflect as well.

If you're interested, a Twitter account from Sky News is live-tweeting the events of the First World War as if they were happening today, which I think is a great idea! It's usually one tweet a day, but for today only they have been 'live tweeting' all the events leading up to the declaration of war here in Britain. You can follow them at @SkyNewsWW1 and there's lots of information online too.

1 comment

  1. Very interesting also because I love history :) I like how you expressed yourself as well.


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