Events that changed the world…
I’ve been here before. It was 100 years ago. I know, but time has a way of standing still.
It’s been an arduous search…looking for me. Over the decades I’ve visited them all: Tyne Cot — 11,965 dead of which 8,369 are unknown; Delville Wood — 5,523 dead, 3,953 unknown;
Meuse-Argonne: 14,246. 846 Unknown. And so many more. In France, throughout Belgium. All of the places I might be — to no avail.
Many, many men died during the Great War. Tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands, were sacrificed
in “The War to End All Wars”. I was one of them. Their names, units and religious affiliation chiseled into a permanent remembrance of them
Each forever field has a full complement of inhabitants, many with their names memorialized in stone.
Many more, though, simply read: “Allied soldier known only unto God”.
At least their body or parts of it were found and given a forever home.
I wasn’t so lucky, but I am not alone.
I can still hear the refrains of the songs the replacements sang as they marched towards The Front:
♫ ♫ ♪ “ Mademoiselle from Armentierre, parlez vous…” ♪ ♪ ♫ “It’s a long way to Tipperary...”♫ ♫
♫ ♫ ♫ “Over there, over there...” ♪ ♪
We were all part of a great struggle, a grand strategy. We were part of a multinational alliance destined to defeat the hated Hun. Many of us never left, becoming a part of the land where we had fought.
There are those of us who had no family to leave behind, no one to mourn our loss, no one to remember us. So we wander these former battlefields in search of…I dunno…closure. And maybe, just maybe, someone will find some part of us and give us a name. We will be remembered.
There was a cross erected by some kind villagers after the fighting ended. They knew all too well how horrific the fighting had been. And they were grateful to those young men who wrested their freedom from the invaders. Good people. Kind people.
But the village had grown to a town and that town was growing too. The cross would have to be moved.
As was customary before any memorial could be relocated, archaeologists from the University of Brussels would have to ascertain that no relics or remains would be disturbed. A group of graduate students was assigned the task.
One spring day as they patiently sifted through the earth surrounding the cross, a student exclaimed:”I’ve found something!”
He held aloft an identity disc, now known as a “dog-tag”, that read:
“Lnc. Cpl. T. Maddow, 2nd Btn, 1st Gren. Dorchestershire, Cath.”
The cord had long ago rotted away. But the proximity of shards of bone and bits of cloth made it clear:
It was me. I wore it around my neck when the shell burst at my feet…a flash of blinding light, a thunderous roar. That is the moment I ceased to live.
Now they will take what’s left of me to join my brothers. I will have a name.
And I can rest in peace.