Here we are then, the centenary of the Armistice has been and gone. The 11th hour, of the 11th month 100 years later, arrived in Flanders and on the Somme as it did in London and Burwash and many other places dear to my heart. Soon, it was 11.01, and a little after, 11.15, then it was 8pm and time marched on, as ever it does. The clock stops for no man, no occasion – not then and not now.
The thing about time, is that not only is it relentless, but it is a great equaliser. It is as merciless as it is kind, as cruel as it is compassionate, for a minute has and always will be, 60 seconds. Yet, in our minds, time becomes moments, and moments – well, they’re something different. They change, and shift and swirl as we perceive time. Your wedding day can seem as if it were over in the blink of an eye, just as a midnight drive to the hospital can seem like it lasts an eternity. So it was that 11/11/18 came to pass. For some, the minute went by unnoticed, for a great many it was observed in crowds that gathered at war memorials across the country and a thought was given to the occasion until 11.01, when life resumed as normal. For a few, that minute is still ongoing.
As I stood in Ypres Reservoir Cemetery, with two dear friends, knowing that thousands of people gathered in the town square and under the Menin Gate nearby, after an hour long parade and much pomp and circumstance, I wondered in truth what it was all about. I looked at the graves of the men who we were there to remember, as they stood in silent sentry far from the crowds. I listened to the sound of the breeze as it shook the autumn leaves of the trees around the cemetery. I felt my friends arm around me, holding tight – and I wept.
11 o’clock came and went but the truth of it is, that the moment and all that we felt, will never be over. I know that many who are passionate about the Great War feel almost a sense of loss at the closing of these centenary years. They’re concerned that as time marches on the memory of Them will drift out of our nations consciousness and be lost. I believe that yes, the media coverage will stop. Yes, the exhibitions and installations will taper off. Yes, for many people their interest in the Great War will dwindle. But for us, who understand and feel as we do, our efforts to share the stories of the men who fought will redouble. The end of the centenary will only serve to strengthen in our hearts and minds the passion we have for remembrance and learning, and I do not doubt, for one second, that we will ever allow Them to be forgotten.