On my many bike rides, I often come across war memorials in villages. I usually stop and look at them for a while. The names and ages are always so poignant, brothers or fathers and sons not returning, or very young men - more often than not, barely grown up.
With my bike rides, I tend to try and go further and further afield, exploring where I've not been before. I sometimes forget we have a beautiful church of our own, both at my own home near Bury St. Edmunds and B's home in Norfolk. And I hadn't realised at all that my village didn't actually have a war memorial. It was only a few years ago, back in 2011, that we finally got a village sign. My village is sliced in two by the very busy A134, where not many motorists stick to the 40mph speed limit, and it stops the village being a tight-knit community, sadly. The village sign was several years in the making but the unveiling ceremony was a nice occasion with lots of villagers getting together and finally getting to know each other.
Our local Neighbourhood Watch coordinator is also on the parish council and set out to organise a war memorial for the 8 men who lost their lives during the two world wars - 4 in each war. And last Saturday, to coincide with the centenary of the outbreak of WW1, the memorial was unveiled.
It was a moving occasion, with relatives of 5 of the men attending and laying wreaths. Someone even travelled from Oman to be there!
I was specially proud because 15yo read out a poem at the end of the ceremony. Originally 12yo was going to do it, but as the days went on, he became more and more reluctant. On the day itself he just refused. I think the thought of lots of people and camera crews being there was just a bit too much. 15yo stepped in and read the poem calmly, clearly and beautifully. I am mostly proud of how mature her response was - she is growing up fast.
The British and the Dutch experienced war in a different way. The British had their men going off to fight. 15yo and 12yo's great-grandfather fought during the liberation of Europe in WW2, and most of their friends will have a grandfather or great-grandfather who fought in the war. The Dutch had their country occupied by the Germans. Countless families disappeared, taken to concentration camps, never returned. The Dutch owe their freedom to the Brits, the Canadians and the Americans. Which is why for me it is so important to recognise the sacrifice these men made, and to remember all who have suffered.