Certainly, the most moving site we saw in London was the moat of blood created by the ceramic poppies around the Tower of London to commemorate the almost 900,000 British soldiers who fell in the First World War. I don’t know where the inspiration for this simple, but highly effective tribute, came from but it was, in my opinion, just right and truly the thousands of people who joined us on the Monday following Remembrance Sunday felt the same way.
We could not complete the entire circuit as it was proceeding so slowly but managed two sides of the Tower’s exterior fortification, even passing the Bloody tower which, itself, conserves its own ghastly memories. Indeed, there was a sort of irony in the fact that the Tower was chosen for the commemoration of this event for it is that Tower which has been the scene of grisly executions and appalling tortures. (Incidentally, the last prisoner in the tower was Hitler’s side-kick, the maverick Hess…).
Italy will commemorate its hundredth anniversary of the First World War next year since it did not join the allies until 1915. There is still so much to learn and understand about Italy’s entry into that war, the whole issue of which fiercely divided the nation.
Even more disunion occurred at the end of the war when the territories promised to the barely fifty year-old nation were largely reneged upon – no Dalmatian coastline and no new colonies, for example. It was precisely these grievances denounced in that huge failure, the treaty of Versailles – which, obverse to its aims – encouraged an even more extreme form of nationalism (the main cause of any war) pushing Italy against the allies in the second conflict (or, as I prefer to call it, part two of the same great twentieth century conflict.
The Great War oddly united Italy as well. People from opposite areas of the then kingdom met for the first time, unable even to understand the strange local dialects they all spoke, whether from Basilicata or Friuli. The illiteracy and general lack of discipline of the mainly peasant army had to be forged into an”effective” militia through often barbarous measures (like shooting on sight anyone who retreated from the battle front).
There will be a lot more to be said about Italy’s commemoration of this blood-bath next year and my visits to the huge military graveyards on the Gorizian and Trento fronts.
In the meanwhile I’ll just present a photo of our little Longoio’s tribute to the war dead. So many died from so small villages that it’s almost unbelievable.
War is without any doubt the greatest scourge of mankind. Is it a genetically inherent manifestation of the species or is it an aberration that could easily be eliminated?
One thing is certain. The only side that has won, is winning or will ever win any war is war itself.
As Shakespeare so well put it: “Cry ‘Havoc!’, and let slip the dogs of war”. And what are the names of the dogs? “Famine, sword and fire” continues Shakespeare – and anything else one cares to add which destroys our deepest humanity.