A century ago today, a state of war was declared between the UK and Germany. WW1 would claim 16 million lives in just over four years. I could hardly resist sharing one more poppy field tonight.
No matter what you think about the politics of conflict, today is a day to remember those who have died in war. I want to share some images of one of my local war memorials, the Air Forces Memorial at Runnymede.
Inside are commemorated over 20,000 airmen lost during World War Two but for whom there is no known grave. The names of those killed seem to run on as endlessly as the memorial’s labyrinthine corridors.
Flags in the roof remind us that the war dead came from all nationalities.
So many young men were lost, literally. With no body found, often the name carved on the wall is all that family have to mark their loved one. Countless small tokens left in nooks around the walls show that even all these years later, individuals are still remembered and mourned.
The Air Forces Memorial at Runnymede is a beautiful place, yes, but also a sobering one. It was somewhere I was pleased to take my teenage son whose idea of conflict is influenced by computer games and adventure movies. As we walked the corridors and porticoes, he became quiet and thoughtful. As did we all.
What is Death?
Death is nothing at all.
I have only slipped away into the next room.
I am I and you are you.
Whatever we were to each other,
that we still are.
Call me by my old familiar name.
Speak to me in the easy way
which you always used.
Put no difference in your tone.
Wear no forced air of solemnity or sorrow.
Laugh as we always laughed
at the little jokes we enjoyed together.
Play, smile, think of me, pray for me.
Let my name be ever the household word
that it always was.
Let it be spoken without affect,
without the trace of a shadow on it.
Life means all that it ever meant.
It is the same that it ever was.
There is absolutely unbroken continuity.
Why should I be out of mind
because I am out of sight?
I am waiting for you,
for an interval,
somewhere very near,
just around the corner.
All is well.
~ Henry Scott Holland
Please note, I have not recently suffered a bereavement. I admire this poem and wanted to take an image to fit it.