A silhouette of a WW1 Soldier infront of Southampton Cenotaph
A silhouette of a WW1 Soldier infront of Southampton Cenotaph

WORLD WAR I REMEMBRANCE

(By Cathie McEwing)

Think back to what the world was like 10 years ago and you may remember that smartphones were a lot less rare, technology and interconnectivity were noticeably different, and issues like the environment and house prices were not talked about as much.

Now think back to 100 years ago and most of us couldn’t even hope to imagine what that would have been like. There was no NHS, Housing was still poor, children leaving school at 14, to help with family budgets. Few cars on the road, gas lit streets, electricity was a fairly new ‘thing’. No TV, communications for most of the UK population was newspapers.

The world was obviously very different 100 years ago too, particularly if you were an able-bodied man between the ages 18 – 40. There is a reasonable chance you may have been over in France for the last few years fighting in the bloody trenches, for the ‘war to end all wars’ (which obviously wasn’t the case in the end!). Many came back both mentally and physically scarred, with wounds that often continued to hurt for many years to come.

My grandad was twenty-two when he went to France, came back with injuries to his eyes and chest from gas attacks. Society was very different then to how it is today, different in ways which we find hard to appreciate today. After all, despite the terrible terror attacks and global unrest that we struggle with as a modern society, we sleep under the comfort of knowing that the UK is very unlikely to be invaded anytime soon, and that our armed forces remain universally acknowledged as among the best trained in the world.

Whatever your political viewpoint, and whatever your position on military action abroad is, it is important to remember those that have fallen to protect our nation’s safety in all kinds of previous conflicts around the world. For many of these conflicts, the governments of the day were not divided with whether they should intervene, as in some cases an enemy was marching towards them and their way of life was at risk. There was simply no alternative.

So at 11am on Sunday the 11th November this year, 100 years to the day from the end of the First World War, many in our beloved country, will stop their daily lives for just 1 minute to remember all those that have made the ultimate sacrifice to ensure our safety over the years. This is always a very moving occasion, with numbers increasing year on year.

Southampton’s Labour run council also introduced the first ‘Armed Forces Day’ this year, again in support of our forces. We all feel it is important to remember those that keep us safe, and their families, and that they should be offered support when they get home from doing that, which many of us just couldn’t.

It is not just about remembering those who died in that cruel war, but the families left behind to deal with the loss. The communities that lost their young men. We will

never be able to repay for their sacrifice, but we must always remember what they gave for our freedoms today.

I have worked with others to setup the Southampton contribution to an already established national campaign that is highlighting the end of the first World War. Silent Soldier silhouettes have been placed in wards around the City, with the ones in the middle of Southampton being by the Cenotaph and at the Bargate.

 

100 years is a long time, many things are very different, but our respect and support for our armed forces should not be.
Cllr Cathie McEwing (Redbridge Ward)
Southampton’s armed forces champion
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