Tuesday, 18 April 2017

Lest we forget

In my continued effort to clear the bookshelves, I've embarked on this
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
When we travel through France on our way to Italy the great war always comes into my mind as we pass signs for places from history, The Somme, Ypres, Arras and often we've glimpsed memorials and war graves from the motorway.  Two years ago we made a special visit to the Menim Gate in Ypres and last year as we travelled home we stopped off at the Ring of Remembrance, Notre Dame de Lorette.  
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


  1. A very moving post. We visited Verdun one year when we were living in Germany and traveling in France. It is a visit that haunts me to this day.

  2. I find these graveyards so very poignant. I am not sure that the younger generation remember and sometimes wonder about what will happen to them in the future. Some years ago I went to the graves at Gallipoli - very moving.
    Entirely different subjects
    Can you give any details about that lovely scarf pattern? I would love to knit it for myself for next winter.
    Also you speak about cars which park themselves. My friend has a Skoda Yeti which does just that.