Remembering war and loss, in part so it does not happen again

The Great War began in 1914, more than a century ago, and is not that far back in history.

Monday, 11th November 2019, 12:03 am
News Letter editorial

There are still people alive who lived through the entirety of that disastrous conflict.

Indeed, Maud Nicholl, until recently the oldest person in Northern Ireland, indeed in Ireland, was born a full five years before that war began yet she died only a few weeks ago.

There are still many men alive who fought in the Second World War, although they would now all be aged at least 90.

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The Queen, who as ever led the tributes at the Cenotaph yesterday, was a teenager when Britain declared war on the Nazi Germany in 1939, and an adult when Hitler was defeated.

In other words, the world wars in many respects seem so far back as to be like they belong to a different planet, yet are very much a feature of our recent history.

While war survivors are themselves dwindling in number, tens of millions of their children are still alive and many hundreds of millions of their grandchildren.

This is why across Northern Ireland, and across the western world, Remembrance Sunday and Remembrance Day, which is today, is still so widely observed.

There are arguments, not unreasonable ones, that perhaps it is time to wind down such commemorations. Yet it is just as arguable that we must not forget or downgrade either the memory of those who paid the ultimate sacrifice to help defeat tyranny, or the context of their loss.

This year we serialised News Letters from 280 years previously, 1739. The continent was full of war and conflict and tragedy then. It was almost the way nations did business.

Bitter current Brexit disputes between the UK and the EU are the sort of thing that would once have been settled by war.

And as Canon Ian Ellis said on these pages last week, and as our letter writer says opposite, we drop our guard as to the risk of a future world war at our peril. A new such conflict would be catastrophic beyond description.