An odd belated trip. pt2

Intellectually speaking, Sunlight is a dangerous and uncomfortable thing. In the cave allegory the light mediated by people and the information given indirectly has that degree of collective certainty that while you’re helped up the slope to the Light you’re expected to experience that light for oneself; cleanly. History and the writing of history is if anything more prone than other study of human endeavour to mistaking reflected light generated by other people for that from the Sun. And while this reflected light is better than nothing, it should never be mistaken for anything else, and certainly nothing pure.  Why does this matter. Well, a bit like that BP oil-well rupture in the Gulf where the spinning from the US government and the company was truly prodigious. But anyone that looked beyond the propaganda would realise that a dinner plate sized hole a mile below the surface would NEVER be plugged rapidly for you cannot grasp a bar of soap in you own bath with one attempt. You’d have to wonder what dimwitted nincompoop would repeat verbatim without saying it out loud to their dog. Or with Afghanistan, the troops were never going home for Christmas no matter how quickly the Taliban ceased to exist.

But there are other accepted facts that are much harder to analyse with a degree of objectivity. Those inserted under the age of ten; the fact facts. The foundation facts. The facts that are almost a sense.

The First World War belongs to many people. Even people like me who feel it the one Great civilisation tragedy, mostly because it was a war fought seventy years to late on issues that were dead by then. Even the Irish who dismissed the existence of those that fought in that war for selfish political purpose have a stake. And even to those that are professional in their mawkish devotion. But few grasp the meaning that equal that of the War poets.

From Tyne Cot Kristine’s sat-nav directed us to some more war cemeteries within the Ypres Salient bringing us back to the town of Ypres to tuck into a delightful supper while we watched the town wind down for the evening.  We then walked about the town centre. Looking at the rebuilt cloth hall, the Cathedral and the town generally. And you’d have to say they did a darn fine job of it for one would never know that the entire place was obliterated. Towards 19:30 we ambled to the Menin Gate which was filling up with people. Each evening that street is blocked to traffic for about twenty minutes while the fire brigade of Ypres blow the Last Post for those that gave their lives in defence of their town.

This structure is held up with the names of the missing up to 15 August 1917. 54,896 of them.

When you add to this the names from Tyne Cot you get eighty-nine thousand eight hundred and eighty men missing in a distance less than most of us take to get our weekly shopping.

I was over in Belgium mainly to visit Kristine and her family and secondly to have a look at that part of Europe, not to do a tour of the WWI battlefield. But the effect on both of us was profound. Not immediately though. And in a very unexpected way. I went on the CWGC web and Kristine did the same for Belgium. We found sixty-eight names listed as dead or missing in that stretch of land that neither of us had ever heard about. We had walked past them and never knew they were there. So by the end of November of that year I was back in Belgium where we went to each and planted Skimmia over each grave we could find. Twelve of them. The rest of them are on the walls of the Menin Gate,Tyne Cot and in the books held in the Peace Tower.  But at least members of the family that carried their name visited them. Something that might never have happened before.

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8 Responses to An odd belated trip. pt2

  1. Kerry Hand says:

    In 2004 I walked the cemetery at Casino with an 80 year old who was back there for the first time in 60 years. He stopped at one place and said “oh. they died”. We were by the graves of two of his comrades who had been wounded and evacuated. He hadn’t known till then what happened to them. He had done 1000 days in the war and they had done two. “they didn’t really know how to do it”

    • Vince says:

      Yes, Monte-casino was one place of pure hell also. It was a true repeat of the Somme, Verdun or Ypres. But you can sorta see why it was needed all the same.

  2. Kimberly says:

    The “bar of soap” comparison made me chuckle. I’m not going to even attempt a comment on the historical part of your post. My lack of knowledge on the subject matter far outweights your knowledge of it, I’m sure. I did enjoy furthering my understanding with the links you provided. How overwhelming it must have been to see ALL THOSE NAMES at the Menin Gate. And what a nice tribute to the fallen who carried your surnames.
    Love the song…I’ve always liked this version by the fenians

    Now I have a better understanding of the lyrics.

    • Vince says:

      There are a few I could have gone with. The Pogues, or Liam Clancy. Then there are a good number of Scots and not a few north of England ones. I picked the Fureys for they are non political; well as not political as you’ll ever find an Irish person.
      As to the names, yes it is truly unbelievable for it only marks that small section. Six miles accross. See;

  3. R. Sherman says:

    My father was born the day the U.S. declared war on the Central Powers in 1917. His father waited two days to see if he and his mother would live and then attempted to enlist in the Army. It wouldn’t allow him, because he he had two children. He tried the Navy and Marines to no avail. The EMBLOS’ grandfather was called up in October 1918, but never finished training. He was 15. Just as well for both of them.

  4. Rebecca S. says:

    On Remembrance Day, on my Facebook page, I posted a Youtube video of the Pogues singing “and the band played Waltzing Matilda”, which is such a beautiful meditation for remembering Galipoli and other battle scenes from WWI.
    Great first paragraph, my friend 🙂

    • Vince says:

      Both songs written by the same fellow. Mind you his renditions aren’t the best.

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