‘When our perils are past, should our gratitude sleep?’- George Canning
‘The eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month’, 1918 marks the official ceasefire and cessation of hostilities on the Western Front. Ninety-five years on and you can still visit the place, tucked in a forest in Northern France, where Foch and Erberger signed the Armistice agreement that ended all bloodshed.
Today, as the eleventh hour approached, the world halted in a solitary stance of remembrance and the solemn words: ‘We will remember them will resonate in our minds. Our thoughts will turn to the forgotten heroes of war. To the sons, uncles, fathers and brothers who never came home, but wait for their loved ones amongst the poppies in the fields of Flanders. And there are other war zones in other times across the hundred years since Armistice…
For just two minutes we stop and remember them.
And then, as the clock hand strikes thirteen minutes past, the world frantically returns to life once again and the poppy you have been wearing religiously is quickly unpinned from your shirt. Thoughts of soldiers and muddy trenches rapidly become supplanted by anxieties of essays, assignments and lectures. Our minds may turn towards the latest death on Downton Abbey or the just deserved elimination of another X Factor hopeful. Perhaps our worries reside in what our next FND outfit will be, or wonder to what horrifying scenario we have forgotten from the night before. All thoughts of Remembrance Day are quickly shrugged off and left in the pages of the past.
Harry Patch, our last living link to World War One, passed away in 2009. Surely this day has lost its poignancy now our ancestors are dead and buried? The Great War certainly does not affect us 99 years on. We are quick to forget, perhaps all too easily, the resonance it has in our present. If we had truly stopped to remember all the horrific scenes of war, perhaps we might have learned something… but we haven’t.
Next year, Loughborough University, along with the rest of the world, will celebrate the 100th anniversary of the Armistice. Displays will be put up around campus reminding students of the importance of the occasion. The university will do this again, in 2015 marking the 100th anniversary when Loughborough became more involved with the war, using the, then, Loughborough College as ammunition factories. The Loughborough Echo is even getting involved, encouraging its readers to send in stories and photos of their great grandparents, of those who went to war and those that were left behind at its end. The Great War changed the world forever and should get the acknowledgement and celebration it so righteously deserves.
So, when you are frantically writing your essay, or watching your favourite reality programme or preparing for the second messy night out in a row, try and spare a thought now and again for those poppies growing in Flanders Field, to what lies beneath them. Perhaps you might learn something?
Don’t let those soldiers become another statistic in a history book. Another memory wedded only to our past… not in our present, which they should invariably remain…