Today at 11am the store I was working in fell silent except for one or two people, one packing a bag one I could hear still opening and closing freezer doors. My initial reaction is anger at the fact the ignored the silence but the I remember those we are taking the time to think of died so people had the freedom to choose their own actions. When I was younger I would get annoyed at people who would say I fought for you, I still do! You see I don’t believe they fought for me, or the person next to me, they fought for themselves and their loved ones, because after all is that not the catalyst that drives people to want to make the world a better place, they do not do it for the faceless masses they do it for their loved ones, for the children they have or long for. I have grandparents who fought in wars and those who stayed behind working in the mines but the eleventh hour of the eleventh day for me will always be about remembering one person.
My dad didn’t want me to look into his family tree he thought there was some dark secret. What I founfwas a tragic tale of a man who went to war and never came back leaving a wife and seven children behind. My grandad never knew his father, my dad recalls only ever once seeing a photo of a tall man, that when he asked who it was he was told it was his grandad, a blond haired, haired blue-eyed Irishman, the photo disappeared and was never seen again. I will never know the answer to why a miner who had no need to fight decided to go to the front, one can only speculate that it was for a better life for him and his children, sadly like so many others he never returned home.
Last year as part of the Somme memorials I got the chance to get the War Diaries for his regiment, and everything became real. You see before he was a name in a list of names but reading these diaries, learning where he travelled and where his life ended made him as real to me as my own grandad had been. The chances are even if he had lived through the war he would have passed away long before I was born but my grandad would have known him, my dad would probably have known him, we would know our lineage and ancestry not just that his parents came from County Galway, a fact scribbled on a census record.
More than that I read the day he died. He died on the 6th there are no casulaties listed for that day but then I realised that it was likely he died at somepoint during the night before and it would not be until the following morning by daylight that the dead and missing would be counted. He was a mere Private, his passing warrented no mention of his name, a number in a tally chart was his diary entry. I want to share with you the day he passed.
Almost every family if they delve deep enough will find someone who went and did not return, regardless of the rights and wrongs of modern politics and wars, we remember those who sacrificed their lives so their children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren could have to freedom to live lives they could never have even dreamed of.