As the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month approaches again and our PM is busy making arrangements for the 100th anniversary of the Great War, just how does the current and not current generation respond to this huge slice of history and the consequences thereof?
I find it very difficult to engage in various state funded “jollies” for lack of a better word – what happened in WW1 and part two that followed was mass slaughter on a scale that is unimaginable, thirty seven million people in the first episode alone, and still it wasn’t enough, with no survivors left now from WW1 and a rapidly dwindling amount left from the second episode.
It becomes ever more remote to the current generation to whom all this was something that happened in another time.
Whether a centenary commemoration will have any lasting impact on those that were not involved or have any links back in family is a mute point, certainly all schoolchildren should have an uncorrected history of the time laid before them warts and all, but how will it be received would they understand that WW11 was largely allowed to happen because the Treaty of Versailles was signed but never properly enforced allowing Hitler to start invading neighboring countries or will the current generation treat it all as some version of a video game?
It’s difficult to tell, time turns what was recent history into a faded memory, however much effort is put in to keep it all fresh.
On a personal basis, I have never been one to dwell on such things or to participate, but I do internally appreciate the sacrifice all those made long ago and I still stand at the given hour, that is the least I should do. My family members were well scattered around the globe in WWII and all thankfully, bar one, came back unscathed.
The one who didn’t, my father’s brother, was blown up when strafing a V2 site in Holland and joined those buried in foreign lands, but it all is a long time ago even the last war.
So when our PM suggests all schoolchildren should visit the sites of the Great War – I never have found out what was “great” about it – who would actually benefit, on paper I would concur that it would be good for people to see the horrors at first hand and man’s inhumanity to man and all the appalling waste of lives that went with modern industrial warfare – it may make a difference, but an ever increasing section of our population doesn’t relate to all this, so I have my doubts.
This year, on my return from France, I had to break the journey on a few occasions and decided to stop at Arras and visit for the first time one of the WW1 sites the one at Vimy.
Although it’s sanitised to a degree with no mud, just grassed over trenches and shell holes, it and a very good visitor centre does it, despite all of this being well documented and retold. It gives you a little more insight into what those poor souls had to endure.
During our time there, there were two coaches containing schoolchildren from the UK which turned up. It was difficult to assess what they made of it but at least they treated the place with the respect it deserves and were being given a description from the accompanying teachers and from little I could hear, was a good fist of what had happened there.
So who knows – there may be hope yet.