Up until a decade or so ago, WWI was a history lesson to me. It was slowly dawning on me that it was the cause of the death of both of my grandfathers. Shellshock led my father’s father to suicide and a trench induced illness took my mother’s father thirty years to die from.
I kind of understood that but it hadn’t really sunk in.
I had never known my grandfather (my mother’s father) and my grandmother worshipped the ground he walked on, so I heard lots of lovely stories about him.
A little over ten years ago I went to England to meet my Aunt. I had never met her, but she had been my mother’s closest friend. As I stepped off the train, I heard an excited “Billy! Billy!” and she rushed up to me.
“I knew it was you because your build is so much like your Grand-dad. You are so much like him”.
From that moment on WWI became real. I was horrified at what I learned of life in the trenches and looking at the wreckage of Ypres made it all the more real.
A year or so later, I went to the Mennen Gate with Brendan Nelson. That is the memorial in Belgium to the hundreds of thousands of Allied soldiers who lost their lives. Name after name after name with so many labelled “Missing In Action”.
A couple of years ago I watched a BBC documentary where they picked three names at random in the war graveyards and followed up their families. To their surprise they found the deaths of those young boys still affected their families to this day.
The carnage of WWI must never be forgotten. It led to the even greater carnage of WWII and God knows how many wars since.
On this Remembrance Day we look at the attempts of the world to unite so that wars like these will never happen again and once again we are faced with divisive forces that are doing their best to stop that happening.
Rest In Peace my grandfathers and all who suffered with you.