Tomorrow – the 11th of November – is Armistice Day. When we recall that it was at the 11th hour of the 11thday of the 11th month in 1918 that the guns fell silent, signalling the end of hostilities. The First World War had ended. Much has been written about WW1. For me the most poignant, the most profound, the most powerful prose is contained in Erich Maria Remarque’s, ‘All Quiet on the Western Front.’ The epilogue to which sums up the whole conflict in a single matter of fact paragraph…
‘…He fell in October 1918, on a day that was so quiet and still on the whole front, that the army report confined itself to the single sentence: “All quiet on the Western Front.” He had fallen forward and lay on the earth as though sleeping. Turning him over one saw that he could not have suffered long; his face had an expression of calm, as though almost glad the end had come…’
…Any direct ‘living link’ with WW1 has long been broken. But there remain amongst us those who can recall Grandfathers, fathers, uncles; those who were ‘fortunate’ enough to have survived the conflict, returning home, having to readjust to civilian life. Invariably scarred for life – physically, mentally, emotionally, even spiritually – often to such an extent that the damage done proved irreparable…And of course WW1 – the so-called ‘war to end all wars’ – gave way all too soon to WW2. A conflict that hit hard our own local communities. Dylan Thomas captures the horror of it all in his description of the death of a child in an air raid on London in 1941…
‘…The majesty and burning of the child’s death.
I shall not murder
The mankind of her going with a grave truth
Nor blaspheme down the stations of the breath
With any further
Elegy of innocence and youth.
Deep with the first dead lies London’s daughter,
Robed in the long friends,
The grains beyond age, the dark veins of her mother,
Secret by the unmourning water
Of the riding Thames.
After the first death, there is no other….’
…Yet in spite of which, as Christians we continue to hold fast the words of the Old Testament prophet…
‘…And he shall judge among the nations, and shall rebuke many people: and they shall beat their swords into ploughshares, and their spears into pruninghooks: nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more….’ (Isaiah 2, 4).
‘We Will Remember all of Them’