Remembrance Day, 2021, one hundred and twenty-three years since the armistice to end the Great War. To many this will seem to be solemnizing ancient history, an event to be aligned with the American and English civil wars, the Second World War and numerous other conflicts from creation to date. I understand that perspective, all war is terrible, inhuman, abysmally monstrous, so why memorialize one event above all others?
The answer is painfully simplistic, the Fourteen to Eighteen conflict saw the modernization of slaughter, for both troops and civilians, the rise of a technology solely designed to wound, maim, and kill, without conscience or particular purpose beyond the breaking of strength and will of the opposing armies and governments. Total warfare reared its ugly head and would never again be persuaded to lower its horrific visage.
Before the Great War the world was still by and large innocent, understood that conflict was necessary, but always at arm’s length, never just at the bottom of the cut, with the noise, turmoil, and aftermath spilling into the streets around.
With advances in the ability to injure, came a parallel surge in the ability to repair the wounded, mangled, dissected, producing an ever-increasing abundance of the supposed fortunate survivors upon home streets. Wounds that would have previously proved fatal, were now overcome, but by broken individuals whom would find refitting into an unprepared society at home difficult if not impossible. Brave soldiers reduced to selling books of matches on street corners for enough largesse to purchase a meal or the luxury of a bed for the night.
In my childhood those invalids still survived, and thankfully were available to me for conversation. I did not learn about those frightful days from books, films, sanitized television shows, rather from the first-hand narratives of the people who participated, suffered, and endured. Stories that even now make me shudder with their recollection, grimace at such sufferings. Experiences not limited to an unfortunate few, but to entire nations united in grief and pain.