Friday, November 07, 2008
Did they really believe that this war could end wars?
This Sunday marks Remembrance Sunday, in remebrance of Armistice Day 1918 'The eleventh hour on the eleventh day on the eleventh month.' We did it in school, like a lot of people. I remember doing it aged about eight, via watching a programme called How We Used To Live, a show that looked at a family in Yorkshire.
A few years later, on a family holiday in France, we drove along passed the roads where the cemeteries are. Even as a twelve year old, it was quite sobering, and the picture at the top gives an idea of what it is like. The graves of thousands of young men, slaughtered for...?
For a long time, I considered myslef to be bordering on being a pacifist. In recent years, I've wondered whether I still would be. I would categorically have refused to fight in the Falklands War, or either of the Gulf Wars. These had nothing to do with humanitarian concerns and a lot more to do with muscle-flexing and oil, in the case of the Gulf. I like to think I would have fought against Hitler, and volunteered in the Spanish Civil War against Franco (the latter may have some rather ideological and romantic ideas, based on reading Laurie Lee and George Orwell). As for the First World War...did it achieve anything?
Eric Bogle wrote a song 'No Man's Land' that made John Peel's Festive Fifty twice. Once as 'No Man's Land/Flowers Of the Forest' by June Tabor in 1977 and later in 1984 as 'The Green Fields Of France' by The Men They Couldn't Hang. Everytime I hear eiether version of this song I'm deeply moved, and reminded of the futility of war. Especially those that use young people as cannon fodder. I was appalled a few years back when it was revealed that the Army were still heavily recruiting around some of the porrest areas of Glasgow, near where I was working and where many kids were seriously disenfranchised. Oddly enough 'Officer Class' wasn't being mentioned.
Check out Eric Bogle's work, and other people's covers of it. I also was lead to him through The Pogues ('And The Band Played Waltzing Matilda) and Billy Bragg ('My Youngest Son Came Home Today.') Even reading the lyrics is frankly, pretty emotional.
June Tabor -'No Man's Land/Flowers Of the Forest.' mp3
The Men They Couldn't Hang -'The Green Fields Of France.' mp3
Thanks due to Steve at Teenage Kicks for his bringing these to my attention!