Column: 100 years on it still really matters

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COLUMN: Richard Oliff writes about the importance of Remembrance Day, particualrly 100 years on from the Armistice that ended the First World War.

We all make mistakes, some more than others, most learn from them, others don’t.

Repeated mistakes are not all disastrous in the sense that recovery may still be achieved: smoking or any other addiction come to mind.

Someone once said to me following an error I’d made at work, one that I can’t remember, yet his response will live with me forever: “Don’t worry about it Rich. None of this will matter in 100 years’ time.”

I’ve even used this myself to console or reassure fellow work colleagues and others down the years, akin to the old saying, ‘worst things happen at sea’.

Then I sat down and wondered if this was an original thought or if he’d heard it prior to passing the comfort on to me.

Imagine you’re a sailor at The Battle of Trafalgar on a warship blasting a cannon through the smoke below decks, as comrades above were being killed by snipers taking their aim from the rigging on enemy galleons.

Did we remember them in 1905? I know that we certainly did during the bicentennial of 2005.

Imagine two young men in a deep-sided muddy stinking trench on some foreign field anytime between 1914 and 1918, both surviving in a permanent state of deep anxiety, ingrained yet ‘manfully’ disguised fear, sleep deprived, cold: with only one’s compatriots and memories of home and family for any semblance of comfort.

One of them has had a ‘stern telling off’ (politely put) by his commanding officer, a fault that he couldn’t remember long after the war, yet his mate’s response lived with him for the rest of his life. “Don’t worry Ted, none of this will matter in 100 years.”

My imaginary ‘Ted’ could well be the representation of the millions who died during that ‘war to end all wars’, and my subliminal message to them all, wherever they are this Armistice is, YES IT DOES.

We do remember you, and they will remember you all, even in another 100 years’ time.