Sunday was the centenary of the Armistice that brought the final cease-fire in the War to End All Wars. Even the weather reflected the solemn mood.
We know that the guns fell silent on the Eleventh Hour of the Eleventh Day of the Eleventh Month. But even up to 10.59 on that now far-distant Tuesday morning, Allied and German soldiers were being killed. Nor did the soldiers immediately leave the battlefield like players leaving the footy pitch. One hundred years on, the Great War still leaves us its loathsome legacy in the form of the hundreds of unexploded munitions which are found regularly on the farmland of France and Belgium. These will have to be dealt with for many more years, a dangerous job in which it is not unknown for people to be killed or maimed. And on sad occasions, innocent people have also been killed or injured when one of these explodes. Not just the legacy of munitions, but also the trouble that arose in many countries which have rise to the Communists in the then Soviet Union, and the Nazis in Germany.
Nobody won. The xenophobic nationalism poisoned many European countries. It still dishonours the memory of the millions of young men of all nations who lost their lives in the squalor of The Somme, Ypres, and Passchendaele. Every single one was a son, a father, a brother, a fiancé, a potential talent that was snuffed out. Nor should I forget the many hundreds of women too who lost their lives, not directly in battle, but behind the lines. A shell hitting a field hospital will still kill and main. Hundreds of thousands of civilians too lost their lives. The ancient town of Ypres, for example, was completely wrecked, as was Cambrai.
What for? A war whose scene was set by an arms race between a proud empire and a wannabe empire. A war started by a few middle aged and old men who had been part of an ugly militaristic aristocratic cult known as the Junkers, at the behest of the Kaiser, a member of the dysfunctional house of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha. A war engaged with great enthusiasm by politicians and peoples of several nations. (It will be over by Christmas.) Young men set to the slaughter by incompetent generals like Douglas Haig and Erich Ludendorff.
Who will remember
Passing though this gate
The unheroic who fed the guns?
Who shall absolve the foulness of their fate
Those doomed, conscripted,
(Siegfried Sassoon (1886 - 1967))
We will remember them.
An Unvictorious One
I read a very sad story, beautifully written, about a fallen soldier of the Great War. It can be found here:
I will share the last three paragraphs of the article:
Edward Conelly was an unexceptional soldier He wasn't at the Somme, Verdun, or Passchendaele, and was awarded posthumously the standard campaign medal given to every combatant. There were no bravery citations or mentions in dispatches. Although he was the only member of his battalion to die in the war's final weeks, he wasn't even named in the official diary kept by the commanding officer, just "1 O.R.", one of the "other ranks", not an officer, not worthy of a name.
He even disappeared from his own family's narrative and it wasn't until that procession of people at the Armistice service that I felt Edward's memory had been in some way restored. There are thousand and thousands like him in cemeteries across the world, in my family history and yours, some visited, some commemorated, others forgotten.
He was a half-deaf teenager from the slums of West London who made his living from scrubbing railway carriages. He left his War Savings Certificates to his goddaughter and £2 to his grandmother. He was killed exactly 100 years ago on November 4, 1918. His name was Edward Charles John Connelly and he was 19 years old. He is remembered.
I have now completed the Cambridge International A level syllabus, and the Cambridge International Pre-U syllabus. The latter has required some new material, which has taken me some time to prepare. It is quite challenging stuff, especially the material on Quantum Physics. It certainly exercised the fatty grey sludge that is my grey matter. I will be preparing stuff for the International Baccalaureate syllabus.
I will say little about this, as I have little fresh to say about it without sounding like a stuck gramophone record. (CDs just drop out.) The picture below still seems to sum up the future.
Parliament in general and the Conservative Party have seemed to stand by watching helplessly and hopelessly as the any pretence of government has all but collapsed. If the senior management of a school had shown such incompetence, OFSTED would have been in and put the school on special measures. If a teacher had prepared as thoroughly as the Right Honourable David Davis MP, he or she would have been sacked on the spot. We are heading rapidly to a No-deal Brexit with the chaos it will bring. How can it be that they are talking of shortages and rationing in peace-time? How many Brexit voters ever voted to lose their jobs and reduce the life chances of their children and grandchildren? It was, as I has said repeatedly, a scam. Reading the Yorkshire Post this morning, I saw that 61 % of over 65s now are concerned about what Brexit will bring, and that was the demographic that voted most strongly for it. You have to be careful what you wish for.
Brits are a fundamentally peaceful people who want to be governed. How long they will tolerate the Mayhem we have in this current parliament is certainly open for debate. Our police forces seem to have given up with most crime. Those who are caught are terrorised within the prisons, not rehabilitated. So they come out not just hardened, but embittered and psychotic with the drugs they have taken. An unprecedented number of families are now dependent on food-banks and the number is growing. Officials from the Home Office are running amok with the Hostile Environment against people whose immigration status is entirely legitimate.
In the meantime Her Majesty's Most Loyal Opposition continues to muddle on, having given up on opposition, and have become a submarine party drifting with no direction from the dull, humourless, and bad-tempered septuagenarian who is their leader.
Why don't we ever learn?
Xenophobic nationalism is like a recurring illness, so it seems. This is one of those times that the virus has returned, like one of those colds that you can't shake off. And it's not just in Britain (or England more specifically) but in other European countries. Unless the virus is challenged, the conditions may well become ripe for xenophobic nationalism to cause chaos across the continent.
This time of year is about sombre and solemn reflection about the horrors of what the virus of xenophobic nationalism can wreak. It is all about fear and hate.
But hope trounces fear. Love trounces hate. Reconciliation will always trounce vengeance.
Until the next time I saddle up my high horse, enjoy and good luck. I hope you do well.