The War That Left A Hole Behind
Commemorations have sprouted all over the country to honour the fallen as the nation gears itself to remember history’s most disastrous conflict.
In the weeks leading up to Remembrance Day, we have seen the sepia tones of November slashed with blood-soaked poppies. They have popped up on the lapels of our politicians and now these one-eyed flowers blink at us every time we turn on the TV. They continue to glare at us from the stony base of yet another ostentatious war memorial, erected for a general who would have gladly shot his men in the back of their heads had they tried to escape the bleak conditions of the trenches. It’s easy to pin a pretty poppy close to our hearts, but it’s difficult to feel close to a war with no lasting survivors: the last being Harry Patch, who died six years ago at the age of 111.
Yesterday at Whitehall, the national ceremony for Remembrance Sunday dedicated two minutes of silence to the men and women who had contributed their lives to British conflicts since 1914. The rest of the ceremony was structured around traditional hymns. Many commemorations support the popular adage that we must fight to win: this works out just fine when a victory is clear-cut and bloodless, but Britain was not entirely victorious. Sure, we beat the Germans, but we didn’t get a trophy for it. How could our great-grandparents feel victorious when everybody on the home front had lost somebody close to them? It’s hard to feel patriotic about a conflict that accomplished so little that we had to return to the battlefield twenty years later.