Sometimes it is hard to find the words.
That is the problem with consigning one’s life to a Daily Blog. Here I sit,
with my head full of sounds and pictures from the Weekend of Remembrance, wondering how it will be possible to describe my feelings adequately. Maybe I shouldn’t even try but leave it to the newspapers, the TV presenters, the radio commentators? Or is
that the cowardly way out, at a time when we remember, above all, the power of heroism?
I am so full of admiration and respect for those who thought up such
tantalisingly beautiful images, ideas and events to mark the end of the Great War. I would love to have visited the Tower of London at sunset and watched the solemn lighting of thousands of torches where, four years ago, ceramic poppies stood. I would love
to have been on the beach at Folkestone, watching the image of war poet Wilfred Owen, drawn in the sand by a patient artist, slowly being washed away by the incoming tides. Gone - but not forgotten, like so very many a hundred years ago. I wish I could have
been in the People’s Procession parading past the Cenotaph on Sunday morning.
Still, there was much to see in my home town. A band of nifty knitters fashioned
hundreds and hundreds of knitted poppies to create spectacular curtains of poppies around the doors of the Town Hall. More poppies festooned bollards, railings, gates - even the letter box where I post off my weekly letters to the two grandchildren away from
home at University at the moment.
Several telephone boxes in the town centre carry posters and information about local men who fought and died in the Great War,
while throughout the whole town, the occupiers of ordinary houses have been given wooden commemorative crosses - decorated with poppies - to display in their windows, marking the fact that one of the Fallen once lived in their house.
Sitting in Church yesterday were two silhouettes of soldiers who were “There But Not There”, silent witnesses to our own parish act of remembrance. Under the altar a cross made up
of tea lights, each tea light representing one of the men of our parish who died in the 1914 - 1918 whose names are written on one of the two Memorials in our Church, one for the First and one for the Second World War. At least one family has members named
on both Memorial Boards.
I’m remembering one of those who didn’t come back from War in 1918. He is named on our church’s Memorial Board and,
although I never met him, I feel as if I know him well. I named him Arthur the Artist and he was the subject of one of the four case studies I completed for the Great War Project in 2014. I am also remembering another of The Fallen - Ernest the Farm Boy -
whose life and war service I researched. I feel as though I know him, too.
Perhaps in order to comprehend the horror of war, you have to see it in the personal
stories of individual, ordinary people who did something extraordinary when they were transported from everything that was dear to them into unimaginable horror.
the Artist worked as an engineer with the 5th Railway Survey and Reconnaissance Section and sent back letters to his little daughter, Eileen, in handmade envelopes fashioned out of the graph paper he used every day in his work. Enclosed with the letters were
beautifully drawn pictures: one of them of “someone you know” - Jimmy, as he called his little daughter: “Please let me know if you recognise it dear.” On her fifth birthday he was hoping she would be able to go down to the Worthing
beach with her Uncle Charlie - oh, the unspoken longing to be there, too. Sadly Arthur the Artist never got to take his darling Jimmy down to the beach - he died in hospital just eight days after the Armistice was signed, a victim of the Spanish ‘flu
epidemic which incidentally also claimed my own grandmother.
Ernest the Farm Boy didn’t come from Worthing but from the village of Streat not far away.
He survived the battles in the Dardanelles but died on 29th July 1918 in France in the second Battle of Marne. His body was never recovered but first hand accounts seem to suggest he died in agony on the battlefield. Having no known grave, his parents made
sure his name was inscribed along with theirs on their own grave in the tiny churchyard at Streat. Nearby is the grave of his elder brother, Albert - a close-knit, loving family torn apart by war and reunited in death.
I have seen and held the postcard Ernest sent home to his parents shortly before he met his death. “If the home that I’m guarding’s guarded / and you’re right - that’s
In a corner, in pencil, his mother has written: “Dear Ern’s last card.”