It is often said that war is a young man’s game. It is true that the vast majority of those who fought and died in the First World War, the ‘Great War’, were young men, but not all. The last French soldier to die in that conflict; Augustin Trebuchon, killed at 10.45 on 11th November 1918, was 40. He had served in the army all through the
war from August 1914 until his death 15 minutes before the cease-fire came into effect. The last British soldier to die; George Ellison was killed at 09.30 that same day. Like Augustin, George had served throughout the conflict and like Augustin he was 40. He lies in St. Symphorien Military Cemetery on the outskirts of Mons. His grave faces that of Jack Parr, the first British soldier to die in that war. He was a young man; having lied about his age when he joined up, he had turned 17 a month before his death on 21 August 1914. In the years between August 1914 and November 1918 the death toll of soldiers and civilians, of all nationalities, across the world in what was a truly global conflict was unimaginable. Those who survived that conflict are now all gathered to their rest, along with their mates who fell all those years ago. And they lie at peace until the last trumpet will sound. Those who fought in the ‘Great War’ are at rest, so what will we be remembering as we gather on the Village Green in a few days’ time? I don’t think that we will be glorifying war, as has recently been suggested by some. I hope we will be remembering their service, their
sense of duty, their loss. I hope we will be praying for an end to war and conflict. The Great War was seen as the War to end all wars. No-one could imagine another war after the carnage of that conflict. From our viewpoint in history we know that wasn’t the case. As we gather on 11th of November 2018, one hundred years after the Armistice on the Western Front we will be remembering all those who have died in conflicts and wars in the years since. Among them I’ll be remembering Harry Newell who died on 15th August 1944 in the south of France whilst his two brothers Jimmy and David were fighting in Normandy. All three were in the Parachute Regiment. Jimmy and David survived the war and David eventually became my father-in-law. Charlotte, Becky and I visited Harry’s grave on the outskirts of Marseilles earlier on this year. He lies in a lovely spot with his mates who were killed on the same day. They lie together forever young. And I’ll be remembering my friend and neighbour, Walter Barrie. Like Augustin and George, Walter was an older man, though he would have hated to be thought of as one. He was 41 when he was killed in Afghanistan in 2013, having served in the army for 25 years. Like George and Augustin he was also killed on the 11th of November. He lies in a lovely spot near to the barracks where he spent much of his career. As we gather together on the Green it does not matter if we are remembering family members, friends, loved ones or names on the memorial. What does matter is that we gather and remember men and women who served their country, who gave their lives in its service. What matters is that we remember, and that we pray for peace. For peace in our world, and for peace in our hearts. May they rest in peace and rise in glory.