On the eleventh hour of the eleven day of the eleventh month of 1918 the Great War ended and this date and time have henceforth been dedicated to an annual tribute to those who have died as a result of warfare. On Friday a moving tribute was displayed in the centre of Bristol and I went to see it before the crowds arrived.
The artist, Rob Heard has individually wrapped 19,240 small figures in hand-stitched shrouds to commemorate the number of people killed in the first day of the battle of the Somme.
It was a quiet but sunny morning and the atmosphere at College Green was sombre. Inside the marquee was a display of all the names of those dead represented by the figures laid out side by side. It is shocking to think of so many lives being wiped out in such a short period. The photos of the brave young men in their uniforms ready to go to fight to defend their country were particularly poignant. Both my father (in the 2nd World War) and my grandfather (for the cavalry in the Boer War) survived these awful wars and it saddens me to think what they went through and what they may have witnessed. In fact, my mother’s first fiance was killed in the first weeks of the 2nd World War so these deaths changed lives everywhere. Whilst soldiers were encouraged to write final letters in case they didn’t survive I hope that most of them didn’t worry that death might not be instant for themselves or their comrades.
Most of us should consider how fortunate we are to have the time to talk to our friends and families about a death that may well not be soon or violent. We should grab these opportunities in both hands and be forever grateful that we are not facing a frightening and messy death on a battlefield far away.