Buttercross, November 21, 2014: Remembrance has greater meaning on First World War centenary

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Another year is slipping away and another Remembrance Sunday has now passed us by.

However, this year’s event has been very special in that it is now 100 years since the start of The First World War, or perhaps better described as The Great War.

This conflict may have only spanned four years, considerably fewer than that which was to follow only another 20-odd years later, but, in terms of the scale of misery and loss of so many souls, this earlier conflict was out there on its own in terms of a sense of loss of loved ones, and this on both sides.

Our televisions and newspapers have been packed with stories about individuals who fought and perished on the battlefields and elsewhere.

Many of us will have seen the superb recent TV drama The Passing Bells, which showed the story of a young British soldier and a similar German lad “joining up” as fresh faced youngsters, expecting this “squabble” to all be over in a few months. Home for Christmas as they thought.

Soon they were to become battle-hardened souls, soon well versed in the true hardships of life on the front line, coping with hardships well beyond their years, living in water filled trenches for month after month.

Advance a little one day, only to then fall back the next. Lice to contend with as well as rats, trench foot and much more, and including constant shelling and mustard gas attacks.

Our family had a close relative who suffered from mustard gas. He survived that war but was a broken soul on returning home to his Marham family.

Were lessons learnt from this terrible conflict ? Sadly not, as the world was once again at war before too long. Our war memorial has many names on it, familiar to us all from those two conflicts and more, from well known Swaffham families who lived among us for many, many years. Some still do, but, sadly, a whole generation of local youngsters was lost.

As for Swaffham’s Remembrance Sunday service, the crowds attending were certainly larger, as perhaps was to be expected. Smart uniforms abounded everywhere, including many youngsters, which was gratifying to see.

There seems more awareness now among our younger people about what happened in these not to be forgotten times. It was good to see one American Air Force uniform in the crowd, though only as a spectator. There appeared to be a significant American presence at other similar ceremonies.

The timings of the service were immaculate, with the two minute silence impeccably observed. Swaffham’s public honoured its dead for another year, though the sad memories of those we remembered on this Remembrance Sunday will be in many thoughts on a regular basis throughout future months and years. Many of us will indeed remember them.