As in so many small villages across the country, we have a war memorial. There is some anger in some quarters about the length of time it took to get a war memorial, but it’s here now and we’re grateful. And again, as in so many villages across the country, the names of the fallen from WWI are far too many for a small village. Some of the surnames are still in the village, and of course, the other thing that is striking is how often the same surname recurs on the monument. Some families lost several sons in the war to end all wars, which was followed only twenty years later by another war.
We have a ceremony here in our village each year on November 11th, with representatives of the armed forces in attendance too. Our war memorial is on the main road through the village, the one previously mentioned as being on a rat-run, so it will come as no surprise that cars drive past during the ceremony. Some slow down; a couple park when they see the crowd (relatively speaking) of about thirty to forty largely retired adults and another twenty kids; some just continue on and you can still hear the thud-thud-thud of the bass on their radio blaring out as they go.
It doesn’t matter what the weather is; it doesn’t matter that for some of those attending, they have no connection at all with the families whose names are listed. There are representatives from many of the groups in the village, including the school, who allow an entire class to attend. (Do they understand what it’s all about, given the apparently dire state of history education in this country? This lot seem to, but then it’s a village school, not a gargantuan comprehensive, so maybe it’s different there.) Several wreaths are laid on behalf of the different organisations, and then after a brief chat, people go back to their daily lives.
Ronnie came with me this morning out of curiosity, mostly, but she was unusually quiet when we got back, and not just because she was trying to thaw out from the double soaking we’d all received in the course of things. She was just a child in WWII but I’m sure she knew families who lost people so it was more personal for her.
“I didn’t know they did things like that in villages,” she said after a while. “I thought it was just in the towns and cities, with the big memorials.”
She announced she was going for a lie-down before lunch after that, but I think she was going to remember.