Today would be my grandfather’s 121st birthday. It was his 21st birthday on 4th August 1914. A burden he carried for the rest of his life, since it was reported in the local press as an heroic co-incidence.
My grandfather – whom I don’t remember, was enlisted in the Territorial Force and transferred to India. He caught rheumatic fever and was transferred back to the United Kingdom. The rest of his platoon were also transferred. To the Western Front. They didn’t survive the horror. I understand my grandfather spent the rest of his life atoning for his ‘luck’, but his sense of guilt never left him, despite contributing and giving back to the community constantly.
On this day, it is important to remember the appalling suffering of the men that fought in the First World War. The waste of lives; the physical and mental scars that were left on those men; the impact it had on families and communities cannot be underestimated. It ruined a whole generation. It ruined communities. Men went from villages to the same regiment, so often whole families or the majority of the men from one community were killed. My father mentions this in his book “Village walks in Warwickshire”.
There is a War Memorial in the church at Ratley, a very small village near Stratford:
Inside the church of Saint Peter ad Vincula is a plaque which displays the names of the 62 men who served in the armed forces in WW1. Of these 62 men, 16 were killed, illustrating the terrible carnage of that war. Interestingly, 17 of the 62 shared the surname ‘England’.
We must remember the suffering of war; the impact it makes on everyone’s lives. As British people, we often don’t talk about the horrors of war, and certainly my parents and grandparents didn’t discuss it; preferring to adopt a “Stiff upper lip”. At a time when the horrors of war are dominating the news headlines, is it not time to reflect the madness of war and come up with a better solution to conflict? We must not forget the errors of the generals in the first world war, or the suffering this caused.