Okay, okay I know. I’m rubbish at this blogging thing and I apologise. I’m still working on a post about France but it’s taking me a while to get it all into words. Safe to say though, it was one of the most moving weeks of my life and it’s definitely something that I will never forget. It would be wonderful if everyone got the chance to do what we did and visit some of the CWGC graves, but even just visiting the Menin Gate alone is completely staggering.
Also recently, I worked with my volunteering group and took part in the BBC World War One at Home exhibition at the Great Yorkshire Show which was a wonderful experience. There were lots of kids getting involved which was lovely to see and they were all willing to listen to what we had to say about the medals we’d brought.
However, the reason for this post is to talk about some of the events going on around the country and indeed the world, on the 4th of August. Sadly, I won’t be in the UK to take part in any of them, for which I am profoundly upset. It really is an occasion that I wanted to mark while at home, but alas I cannot.
The first thing I want to talk about is the Letter to an Unknown Soldier project which is here if you’re interested.
I personally think that writing a letter to the unknown soldier who stands on the platform at Paddington is a wonderful idea. You can write it as though to a stranger, or as though to a member of your own family and it’s this second idea that I love. It really does bring it home for people who might otherwise still feel removed from the concept. I’ve tried recently myself to write a letter (it’s a work in progress, I’m determined to have it finished soon!) and every time I began it, it felt more and more real. I tried writing as though to my uncle, my boyfriend, my father and every time it was immensely difficult. The strength required to write such letters as the war was going on must have been phenomenal and I admire all those women who wrote to their beloved husbands, all those children who wrote letters to daddy – the emotional weight of it still rings true today.
I read through several of the letters on the site and some of them are profoundly affecting, especially those written by young children, full of love as they tell ‘daddy’ how they are and what they’re doing and with the childish hope that everything will be fine once daddy gets home.
I read one recently that was a reflection from a girl who had gone on a trip to the cemeteries with her school. She recalled that her classmates were sat around, giggling and one teacher asked whether or not it was considered strange, disrespectful even to bring groups of teenagers to such a sombre place. The guide’s response was “what teenage boy wouldn’t want to be surrounded by a group of giggling girls?” and for them, that comment truly hammered it home and their laughter faded away – that some of those who were buried where they were standing were their age or just a few years older.
For me, it wasn’t a guide who brought it home; it was one of the gravestones I saw while in France.
Captain Robert Pickering Phipps is buried in Serre Road Cemetery No. 2. He was part of the South Staffordshire Regiment.
He was just nineteen when he died on the 13th of November 1916.
His epitah reads “Steadfast until the end, his rest shall be glorious.”
The other commemorative, nationwide event happening is the Royal British Legion’s Lights Out campaign (video here) wherein they are encouraging everyone in the UK to turn out their lights from 10-11pm and light a single candle instead in reflection of the words of Sir Edward Grey – the very quote I have at the top of my blog. Many huge companies and businesses are taking part such as the BBC and the Eden Project. I feel its a very nice idea and a somewhat fitting one. There are lots of other things going on around the UK in addition to #LightsOut and they can be found here.
I’d love to hear what you’re all planning on doing, if anything at all. Even if its just a moment or two of private reflection, attending a memorial service at a religious institution or taking part in the LightsOut campaign, I really do encourage you to take the chance that you have on such a historic day and truly think about the war.
About all those who were involved in it.
About the young men, like Robert Phipps, who was someone’s beloved son, treasured brother and adored friend.
Those who were lost, and those who came home irrevocably changed, but also those who had to cope with those changes in the ways they knew how.