Letter from the Rectory November 2018
Much will be written about the events of 11th November 1918 this month.
The last of the generation who served in the First World War are no longer with us: Harry Patch died in 2009 at the age of 111. Many of those veterans could not speak about their experiences, anyhow until into old age.
Perhaps the most poignant memories for many of us, the subsequent generations, is to remember our own relatives whose names are inscribed on the war memorials up and down the country; to recall the utter grief of parents mourning young men cut down in their prime, and those who lived with life-long disability and suffering.
In looking for any good that came out of this tragedy of truly epic proportions, we tend to associate reconciliation with the end of a conflict. However, there were moments when compassion and mercy were in evidence, even in the midst of that war.
We have all know of the Christmas Truce in 1914. There was more limited one again the following year. There were other moments when mutual respect was in evidence. An unidentified soldier reported, ‘We shouted to the Germans to come and fetch their wounded…we promised not to shoot, and a man who wore the iron cross advanced to assist the wounded man. Another followed, and amidst our cheers, they carried him off. Before going, the first man saluted and said, “Thank you gentlemen, I thank you very much. Good day.” The incident quite upset me, and I wished that we might all be friends again.’
Reconciliation in the midst of conflict came more commonly in the face of approaching death. A young soldier passed a large shell hole and saw two decomposing bodies side by side, one a British soldier, and other a German. ‘They lay hand in hand, as though reconciled in mutual agony and in the peace of death.’
Such moments of compassion amidst the futility and horror offer grains of hope. For the Christian, we have that greater hope that whatever befalls us in this life, there is life beyond death, all because of the victory over death won for us by Jesus Christ through his death on the cross and his resurrection.