Beauty surrounds us, but we usually need to be walking in a garden to know it - Rumi
Today, 11 November 2019, marks the 100th Anniversary of the signing of the Armistice bringing the Great War to an end. There is now no one left who fought in that war and the numbers of those who served in the Second World War are fast declining. Soon those wars will vanish into history, rather like the Battle of Waterloo or the Norman Conquest of 1066. The names of those who fought and died are recorded on the War Memorials in towns and villages across the country and overseas, and their memory is precious to their families, of course, but the events themselves will largely be forgotten..
Let us not forget, however those whose names are not recorded anywhere. Those who served on the Home Front, and whose service and sacrifice is not so often remembered: the hospital staff, the fire and ambulance crews who worked and gave their lives when enemy bombing and the resulting fires put them in, perhaps as great danger as those who served on the front line. Let us not forget those unsung heroes who drove the trains transporting vital supplies and material across the country nor those working in the docks to unload the precious supplies from ships arriving from across the world, nor those who worked to repair those damaged ships under constant bombing.
I remember this year an air force man whose plane was shot down over enemy territory and so spent the rest of the war in a POW camp in Germany. His ability to play the violin helped to cover the noise made by those digging a tunnel to escape captivity. The episode was made into a film called, I think, the Great Escape. You may have seen it. His wartime experiences did not leave him bitter for after the war ended he returned to teaching. He taught us German and Russian but he also organised and accompanied a number of Student Exchange visits with a school near Cologne in Germany. At the time of our visit the scars of war were still evident on the Cathedral and elsewhere in the city where a number of bridges across the Rhine had been destroyed, making life difficult for the general public.
One of the things we discovered from that exchange was that the German boys were just like us, with the same hopes and fears, and the same love of a good game of football! Equally amazing, given what had so recently passed and the disruption caused to their lives in consequence, was the warmth with which they and their parents welcomed us into their homes. All thoughts of war were forgotten, peace reigned, we were all friends.
Thanks for that lesson of peace and friendship, Tom. May you rest in peace.
Peter is a father and a grandfather who has been retired from full time employment for a number of years