October 2018

Originally published in the King’s Stanley Magazine.

“If they ask us, we won’t tell.”

I came across this phrase recently as something said by soldiers who survived the horrors of the First World War. Their intention was surely to protect people who had not experienced the horrors of the trenches. They also wanted to protect themselves as far as was possible from their traumatic memories of friends they had lost, things they had seen, and sounds that threatened to haunt them.

“If they ask us, we won’t tell.”

That phrase rang a bell because that was the gist of the answer my grandfather gave when asked about the war.

“Boy, you don’t want to know.”

That was about 50 years after the war had ended, but he still felt the desire to protect, and the need to leave memories unstirred.

Yet there were those who did tell, because they felt they had to. Letters home from the front were censored, because the truth would have been unbearable. But there was poetry, somehow less direct, and yet so powerful both in helping soldiers unburden themselves (at least in part) and in conveying something of what war meant. Novels came to be written, and plays, some of which were turned into films.

Some wrote accounts of their experiences and, eventually, in old age, some of the dwindling numbers of survivors began to speak directly at last, “Lest we forget.”

They spoke with emotion, remembering their fallen comrades, yet they still protected their hearers from the worst of what they had seen and heard. Protection of home and loved ones, that was one of the motives that kept those in the front line going, it was their duty.

As we approach this centenary, most of us feel that we have a duty to “Remember them.”

If we ask “Why?”, we can be grateful for that motive of protecting home and loved ones from the threat posed by the enemy. If we ask “How?”, then we can grasp the obvious (but easily overlooked) fact that men were fighting for peace.

One of the Beatitudes is apposite. Jesus said, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called children of God.”

WW1 was meant to be the “war that ended all war.” Sadly, it wasn’t, but it is no contradiction, nor a dishonouring of those who served in both world wars, to remind ourselves of that motive of protection and the overall desire for peace.

I have been impressed by the thought and imaginative planning that has gone into the marking of this centenary in King’s Stanley. Do take the opportunity to be part of what has been organised. We are the beneficiaries of those who risked and gave their lives in past conflicts, so it behoves us to remember with gratitude.

(To be continued next month).

Meanwhile, as always, a warm welcome awaits you at our Sunday services in the village hall.

Yours,

Robert Draycott (Rev)

About Robert Draycott

After training at Regent's Park College Oxford for the Baptist Ministry I was ordained in 1976. My first Church was Wollaston in Northamptonshire. Then our whole family moved to Brasil where I served with the BMS in a variety of roles including teaching Theology and Biblical studies in Campo Grande. From 1992 -2010 I was Chaplain and Head of RS at Eltham College. I was Interim Minister of Eltham URC 2012-14, before moving to Gloucester in 2015.
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