Three books in one, its a hardback of almost 600 pages so not ideal bedtime reading as I tend to nod off and drop it - heavily. I've finished the first book, Regeneration, which centres on a real life encounter at Craiglockhart hospital Edinburgh, where first world war shell shocked soldiers were sent for treatment, between an army psychologist and Siegfried Sassoon. At school so many years ago we studied the war poets, Sassoon, Wilfred Owen, Rupert Brooke et al, their words never left me so I enjoyed the book and knowing the setting from my years in Scotland made it all the more vivid.
|Craiglockhart war hospital, now part of Edinburgh University|
This remarkable modern memorial is a large ring of concrete containing 500 sheets of bronzed stainless steel listing 576,606 names, without rank of country, people of all nations who gave their lives in northern France. I found it overwhelmingly sad.
The memorial is located on a strategic ridge that was bitterly contested during the war. Nearby is a church with cemetery and ossuary that hold the remains of more than 40,000 soldiers as well as the ashes of many concentration camp victims, it was atmospherically misty when we were there.
Perhaps most touching of all were the elderly Frenchmen who every day stand at the entrance to the graveyard, each with a proud chestful of medals and wearing their berets. This Honour Guard consists of volunteers who retain the memory of those who died for France and represent the families of the dead who are known to be burried in the cemetery. We chatted to them briefly, they thanked us for our visit and we thanked them too.
As the stars that shall be bright when we are dust,
Moving in marches upon the heavenly plain,
As the stars that are starry in the time of our darkness,
To the end, to the end, they remain.For the Fallen, Laurence Binyon