For the last week there have been newspaper articles about World War I (or the Great War as it was known until World War II dwarfed even that horrendous loss of life, maiming and destruction in the earlier conflict). I wonder how many people flick over the pages or really grasp how devastating World War I was.
A whole generation of young men was decimated. War was still seen as something of an adventure when it started. Young men often rushed to sign up in case they missed out. After all it was all going to be over by Christmas.
Except it wasn't. It dragged on, horrific battle after horrific battle, in a war unlike any before, a war when the machines of war moved well beyond relatively simple weapons like guns, however big they may have been. Tanks, armoured vehicles and aircraft all entered the service of the military in this war, not to mention monstrous flame throwers and the unspeakable use of poisonous gasses. To the men trapped in their trenches on the front line it must have been hell on earth. Of those who survived and came back many were profoundly damaged and not only physically and, inevitably, this affected the next generation.
Finally, after five hellish years, an Armistice was declared. It took effect at 11:00 AM on November 11 and it was decided that it should be made a perpetual day of remembrance of the fallen. As a mark of respect, everyone was asked to stop whatever they were doing every year at 11:00 AM on November 11 and to remember those who died. In my family that was my great uncle, Captain Horace Chamberlain King MC who died of wounds in France on April 7, 1918. He was twenty two.
The symbol of Remembrance Day is a red poppy. Mine is on my front door and at 11:00 AM I will stop and remember Horrie and all the others who have died in war. I hope you will too.