Nostalgia and Memorabilia

Never knew him ... - © Bernd Biege 2014
Never knew him ... - © Bernd Biege 2014

I am a bit bemused to hear about the “World War One Roadshow” that will hit Trinity College Dublin next week – the event, which also involves the National Library of Ireland and RTÉ, is advertised as a “day long programme of free events [that] includes pop up talks, WW1 cooking demonstrations, music, theatre, lectures and family activities”. Oh, what a lovely war, indeed. Bit of belated navel-gazing.

They are also inviting “members of the public … to bring along items relating to World War 1 to be catalogued for an online European archive. Experts from the National Library of Ireland will be on hand to review and record your family’s memorabilia”. That could be quite interesting, when it is finished.

Maybe I should go along … I have some postcard shots the brother of my grandfather had made in those patriotic days. All optimistic, going off to fight for a better world, against the bitter foe. Maybe the other visitors can relate … then again, maybe not, Wrong uniform. Of a gallant ally. Or so.

On a personal note … I never knew this man. He was killed somewhere on the Eastern Front. His younger brothers went on to fight (or rather muddle through without making serious efforts at fighting, long story) another war, they survived. His son grew up with a stepfather and jumped out of a plane over Crete. Only to spend the rest of another war in a British PoW camp in Northern Africa … lucky.

If we can learn one thing from the 20th century, it may be that successive generations of young men went off to fight what they thought, at some level, to be a “just cause”. And that, a hundred years on, we should maybe see beyond the memorabilia at the naked truth … that most were slaughtered for interests that they were not really interested in. Seduced. Indoctrinated.

Then again … will it ever change?

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