2 smiles, 100 years since the guns fell silent
But only briefly, in the greater scheme of things the guns continue to blast and boom, and destroy lives.
My Mother was called up 2 weeks before the end of the second world war, despite longing to be called up to get her out of a nasty home situation. She was working in the textile industry, book-keeping, and it was a protected industry where they wouldn't release her to serve.
My father was called up just as he turned 21, and was shipped out to Canada a few weeks after his wife had walked out on him. He always told the story that his marriage fell apart because of his deployment for 2 years to Canada. But I recently found a tiny little diary with a note that said "wife left me, don't know why" on a date a few weeks before Canada happened. Also noted in the same diary.
But this was the second world war, the first one was far more destructive of lives than the second, unbelievable as that may seem when we know how many millions died in WW2. Today there are events and ceremonies and services all over the place, commemorating the silence of the guns at 11 o'clock on the 11th day of the 11th month, 1918.
In my Dad's family Grandpa Harling served as a military police officer in the trenches, he was sent home with trench foot. Something that potentially saved his life. In Mum's family 3 of her 5 uncles served in India amongst other places, unsure where else... shabby really, but everyone I could ask has left the planet.
They all came home anyhow, which makes the 2 families very very lucky. Accrington had raised 2 "Pals" battalions and one was almost wiped out in no time at all in the battle of the Somme.
"The Accrington Pals next moved to France where they first saw action in the Battle of the Somme. On the first day on the Somme, 1 July 1916, the 31st Division was to attack the village of Serre-lès-Puisieux and form a defensive flank for the rest of the British advance. The 31st Division's attack on Serre was a complete failure, although some of the Accrington Pals did make it as far as the village before being killed or captured. One of the battalion's signallers, observing from the rear, reported:
"We were able to see our comrades move forward in an attempt to cross No Man's Land, only to be mown down like meadow grass. I felt sick at the sight of the carnage and remember weeping."
Approximately 700 men from the Accrington Pals went into action on 1 July; 585 men became casualties, 235 killed and 350 wounded in about half an hour. The battalion's commander, Lieutenant-Colonel A. W. Rickman, was among the wounded. A rumour spread around Accrington that only seven men had survived from the battalion, and an angry crowd surrounded the mayor's house, demanding information.
The Accrington Pals were effectively wiped out in a matter of minutes on the first day on the Somme. The battalion was brought back up to strength and served for the remainder of the war, moving to the 92nd Brigade of the 31st Division in February 1918."
That's from Wikipedia. I find this period in our history to be incredibly moving. It frustrates and horrifies and enrages me, the crazy loss of life, the useless tactics, the madness of fighting guns with flesh and blood on all sides. The continues slaughter despite the obvious fact that it made not a jot of difference to the outcome of the fighting.
This is photo of Dad that turned up as we were clearing the house, I photographed it and put myself in the reflection. He was a great photographer and would not have liked this silly playing about with a portrait much. However, I like the effect achieved with minimal faffing.
The sun is shining on Blackburn, the town is washed clear and bright by the last fall of rain and now the world is twinkling.My sister-in-law has just remarked that it is gorgeous. And it is. My hope is that we can hold onto the positives in our lives, the reasons for gratitude, the sources of delight - and access our courage to oppose the forces that wish to push us into conflicts and destructive actions.
(Blackpool beach didn't happen. It was all going to be over by 9.45, due to the tides, and we had no energy for getting up and off by 6.30 - weaklings!)