1914-1918. Lest We Forget Remembering and honouring those who gave their lives for our freedom. Learn from history – read about their sacrifices and promise yourself, your children that passing on a world of freedom, love and peace is the foundation of their future lives.
The Royal British Legion show us how to honour and remember those who have fallen – to say “‘Thank You’ to the First World War generation who helped shape our world as we know it today.” I heartily recommend you purchase Malcolm Hollingdrake‘s poignant short story ‘The Penultimate Man‘
– thus, you too will contribute as all author profits go to the Royal British Legion.
Tragically, the war to end all wars was neither the first nor the last. Like all wars, it cost many lives, pain, agony, heartbreak and sorrow. As with all who fought in wars, they who experienced the trenches would keep the haunting memories – surviving WWI was a (sometimes barely) physical one, the psychological impact could take a lifetime. They fought for our freedom – and they must have been devastated to learn that peace in their time would demand yet more sacrifices – yet another war, WWII. Lest we forget those who gave their all to protect us. We owe them.
So the youth take up their plight
Too young to know for what they fight.
Eyes that say their souls are dead
Once laughing hearts now beat with dread.
Happy times have been dismissed
Their names fill up the reaper’s list.
No more a time for song or dance
The hope to live their only chant.
We owe it to them – their ultimate sacrifice – to never take freedom for granted. Never to misuse this right by abusing others – physically or verbally – they have the same right to freedom as we have. We owe it to them, to everyone who gave their lives, to strive for democracy and peace. To make this world we live in the best it can be. Would it not be wonderful to live in a world without war? That is what those soldiers back in 1914 set out to accomplish. That is what they gave their lives for – that is why their dreams would become nightmares forcing them to relive the horror of the trenches.
Lest we forget
“War is what happens when language fails.”
– Mark Twain
Once in a Lifetime
by Malcolm Hollingdrake
It will happen once in a lifetime… a lifetime… what is that? For John Condon, it was the blink of an eye. You will not know the name, why should you? Let me help you.
If you were to walk through Poelcapelle cemetery situated 10km north east of Ypres and look at the names on the white Portland headstones, you would be staggered by the ages of those British soldiers who died fighting near there in the First World War. There is more. As you approach a shady corner on perfectly manicured lawns you will discover one that will take your breath away and possibly make you want to weep. Here on Row F, Plot 56 surrounded by small wooden crosses that speak of remembrance and sadness you will read the name – Private 6322 John Condon and then you will read his age and then reread it – 14.
He was the youngest soldier to fight and die. To get there he had to lie about his age. It must also be remembered that he was only one of the many hundreds of brave boys who signed up to fight in the war that was thought to be the war to end all wars. John was killed fighting in the Second Battle of Ypres when the Germans used chlorine gas for the first time.
The Penultimate Man
by Malcolm Hollingdrake
With this short story, I am proud to support The Royal British Legion at this historic time, the centenary of the conclusion of World War One. I hope you will forgive the brevity of this book but like many a soldier’s life, cut short in his prime, I hope that it will live in your memory, that the poignancy of this story allows you a minute of silence, a moment of reflection where you will remember those who paid the ultimate sacrifice for what they felt to be a true and just cause.
It was on a Monday, on the eleventh day of the eleventh month 1918, that the war to end all wars came to an end that was for the many, a blessed relief. The indelible physical and mental scars would be carried by those from all sides of the conflict, making their return to a normal life, seem uncertain and confused. It was a period in time when much was expected from the mere mortal.
However, it is to the few that this story relates. It is dedicated to those who died in those months, weeks, days, hours and minutes leading up to the ceasefire as well as to those who succumbed to their injuries after the larks sang again above the blood-red poppy fields. It is with The Penultimate Man we focus our attention, a man about to pay the ultimate price in those brief moments before the thunder of war ceased.