One person who works tirelessly to record local history and has a particular interest in the Great War is David Evans, who every year travels to the former battlefields of Flanders to renew old friendships, remember the past and pay his respects.
A few weeks ago, following David’s latest trip, he wrote this remarkable piece on that most bloody of conflicts.
Thanks to David Evans for a stunning contribution which I won’t defile further with my waffle.
We will not forget them. They shall not Grow old.
The many silent military cemeteries of Flanders reveal little of the emotion or pain of some hundred years since those terrible battles where lives of combattants of both sides were obliterated in blinding flashes, or seeped away in trickles of thick crimson from twisted combat uniforms in the clinging wet mud.
This small cemetery, south of Ypres, with its expertly maintained manicured lawns and serried rows of headstones is like the many other cemeteries in this ‘Salient’ – clean, clinically clean, and so cold and terrifyingly still. A deafeningly silent military parade of ghosts and spent souls.
Just occasionally among the shrubs and roses that grace and comfort the cold stones, a simple wooden cross with a poppy can be glimpsed, proudly defying the passing of time and fading memory. A card, a name, a brief moment of precious humanity brought from afar by those who remember, and respect.
But for most of these dead souls, their only enduring epitaph is the carved words \A soldier of the Great War… Known unto God’ …And buried, too, are the thunderous crashes of ‘Incoming!’, the mind-splitting blasts and stench of exploding shells, murderous shrapnel, withering machine gun fire, storms of mortar rounds, and deadly gas, creeping low over the land and down into trenches and dugouts
The vile, on-going series of assaults, counter-offensives and ‘pushes’ in this theatre of war, this hideous trench war, respected neither combattants nor civilians in its insatiable hunger for death.
Little now remains of the cost of humanity lost in this slaughter, just a few ‘objets retrouves’ which are sometimes quietly displayed in local village halls in acts of respectful memory of the events that took place in the fields of the farms nearby.
Yet, in this vast open panorama of tranquil fields, even in our times, lost ordinance from that dreadful period sometimes re-awakes with crashing deadly effect, bringing a sudden, violent remembrance of a lost generation.