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In the mid-80s I took a summer job as a carer at the Royal Star and Garter Home in Richmond, Surrey. At that time, a number of veterans who had served in the Great War were still resident there. Most didn’t mention their experiences, but one afternoon an old soldier in his 80s, who still suffered from shell-shock and night terrors 60 years later, suddenly began to tell me and a colleague about his time in the trenches.
I was 18 then, and what I most remember about his story was that it was the words of a lad like me; the vivid impressions of a 17 year-old boy who had been thrown into the roar, the stink and the carnage of the greatest conflict the world had seen. Before being sent over the top he was given a mug of rum – the first alcohol he’d ever taken – and slipped drunk and confused into a mud-filled shell crater where he tried not to drown for hours before escaping and crawling back to discover his closest mates were dead.
These days peace is taken for granted, sometimes even mocked, but like air, food and shelter, you’ll miss it when its gone. Even today you don’t have to try too hard to see the devastating effects of war or hear the drums beating in the distance. So even here, on a tiny serene island where war is just a rumour, let’s pause to be grateful for the peace and tranquility we’ve been blessed with, the endless work that has preserved it, and let’s never forgot all those who never survived to enjoy it.
Life, to be sure,
Is nothing much to lose,
But young men think it is,
And we were young.
Enjoy the mag.
November 2018 Edition
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