Nov 11

On this day in 1918 the guns fell silent, and what was called at the time “The Great War” finally came to an end. With millions dead and entire countries brought to the brink of destruction, it was hoped that the world’s first taste of a fully industrialised war would also be it’s last. It’s hard, even in the dangerous times we live in now, to imagine the scale of such horror. Tens of thousands of young men wiped out in a single battle, often gaining nothing either side. Millions of shells fired. Years spent in waterlogged trenches that gouged across the countryside. The potential and unrealised hopes of an entire generation lost to conflict, madness, brutality and fear.

My father’s father – I always called him “Grandpa” – was not in the Great War, but he did serve in World War II. I remember being shocked when, one day, he showed me his enlistment papers. My Grandpa signed on at the outbreak of war and when asked how long he would serve, he picked the option “Duration of hostilities.” That could have meant a year, two, ten, twenty or thirty years spent at war, which was a hell of a roll of the dice when you come to think about it. He was a kind, gentle, honest and funny man to whom I owe so much of myself, and it is strange to think of him as a fighting man, engaged in the dehumanising process of warfare. So strange to think of an ordinary, nice man who, to me, was the epitome of everything that was secure, safe and trustworthy in the world being stuck in the middle of a hellish war.

I don’t think I would have the courage to consciously sign myself up to fight a war that might never end. I don’t think I could throw myself – a single man – into a horror that chews up countries and spits them out. For my grandpa, for all the ordinary men and women who should never have been there, for everyone who sacrificed their future to secure my present, I’m going to give thanks today when the country goes silent for 2 minutes at 11am.

I wish there was some clever way to end this, but there just aren’t words, so all I can give is silence.

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