Saturday, 6 September 2008

After the Armistice

News reaches me of another Palin, the one who still (at the time of writing, but possibly not for very much longer) occupies three of the four top slots on a Google UK search of the name. Michael Palin, traveller, comedian and, it says here, amateur historian, will be presenting Timewatch: The Last Day of World One on BBC2 later this autumn.

The programme will tell the tragic stories of four men, British, French, Canadian and American, who died shortly before the ceasefire on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month in 1918. It also reveals the shocking fact that around 11,000 troops lost their lives after the Armistice ending the war was signed.

This caught my eye because I went to the National Memorial Arboretum in Alrewas, Staffordshire, recently, where I was reminded of one of those family stories that stick in your mind from childhood. In common with others of her generation, my grandmother lived through two world wars and her dearest wish for us as children was that we should not have to go through anything like that again. The first world war claimed both her teenage ‘sweetheart’ and her closest brother. I have the clearest memory of when she first told me how the fateful telegram breaking the news that he had been killed arrived on 12 November – the day after the family, and the whole country, had been celebrating the end of the war.

No comments: