Lest They Forget

On the 11th hour, of the 11th day, of the 11th month Britain falls silent in remembrance of those who have fallen in battle, never to rise again; for those who gave their lives so our glorious nation could have free will.

For people who do not know the perils of war, it is a show of respect to those who have suffered or died. But those who have survived war, who have witnessed their friends and comrades die, do they really want to remember?

From time to time my dad will tell me about his grandad, my great-grandad; he fought in the First World War, at the Battle of the Somme; some of his sons fought in the Second World War.  My dad will recount the kind of man my great-grandad was… a strong silent type, a sleeves rolled up, hardworking kind of man. I cannot remember the full story, but my dad recalls a time when watching TV with my great-grandad, that he became angry and started cursing at the TV, something to do with politicians and soldiers.

Apparently my great-grandad used to tell my dad that he hoped he would never have to go to war, and when, at 16, my dad became a butcher, my great-grandad was relieved… were we to go to war yet again, my dad’s skill in the meat trade would mean he would remain in England making sure those who remained got their weekly rations of meat.

I have seen a few photos of my great-grandad, and in the majority of them he seems rather glum… even in a photo at his own son’s wedding!

I paint this picture for you, because although he died long before I came into this world, I know my great-grandad was jaded by his experience of war. Even though we read about War, I don’t think you can ever imagine it for what it really was, unless you were there. This man, my great-grandad, had both mental and physical scars… on his return home and for the rest of his life, he lived with a horrible skin condition due to exposure to gas bombs; a constant reminder of his war efforts.

From what I have been told, it seems obvious that my great-grandad wanted to forget. And why would anybody want to remember the time they fought for their country, for their freedom, for their life? Why would you want to remember the time you saw others succumb to the weapons of their enemy?

Yes, remembering fallen soldiers is a sign of respect, a chance to reflect on your place in this life (I count myself lucky that my great-grandad wasn’t killed in action; one stray bullet and I wouldn’t be in existence) but for those lucky enough to survive, to be discharged from duty, they should be allowed to forget.


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