A hundred years ago, at 1100 hours on the eleventh day of the eleventh month the Armistice came into force and the First World War came to an end. That’s the tidy version of history. Of course, nothing so cataclysmic ends so neatly, and I remember when I visited the battlefields of Northern France noticing how many gravestones there were marking the deaths of soldiers who survived hostilities only to die of influenza as they awaited repatriation.
And not only soldiers. I came across a row of gravestones in Chinese script for men from that country who had built and maintained the railways necessary to supply the army. They too fell victim to the flu epidemic of 1918 (which killed more than double the number who died in conflict).
And then there were those who returned. I saw a photograph at the Historical Society the other day of members of the Finedon British Legion in the 1930s, winners of the Haig Cup, respectable men of substance, wearing medals on their Sunday best, a decade after they won them and I wondered how they managed to adapt to life at home after the violence and terror of the trenches, or the North Sea, or Gallipoli?
It is right and proper those who fell in war; but it is important also to remember those who survived, and survive today, but bear scars which are not only physical but mental. I have lost count of the number of former servicemen I have encountered living on the street, who returned home from different conflicts and found it impossible to settle back in to what we think of as normal life.
Please continue to support the work of the Royal British Legion, and the regimental and service associations, and other organisations that exist to care for men and women who made extraordinary sacrifices for the benefit of us all. They deserve the best we can do for them.
Yours in Christ,