There are two war memorials on the grounds of Knowlton Academy. One is larger and far more poignant than the other. There are 62 names on the World War One memorial, all of them listing men who died on the battlegrounds of France and Belgium; sixty-two people from a small town and its surrounding farms. And from a country of only eight million, 61,000 died. Reading the names on the two monuments, think of the men who died frightening deaths far from home, the suffering of their mothers, fathers, children and friends. Looking back on the wars of the 20th century, it is easy to see that the the tragedy of the First World War led to the Second World War.
The cenotaph for the 1939-45 war lists the name of 158 veterans, 15 of whom were killed. There are maybe three living veterans of the Second World War left locally. At Remembrance Day ceremonies, people often speak of wars fought for freedom. True of the Second World War, but not the First. What is true, and what we can see looking back on what will be remembered as a century of war, is that the First World War was a calamity.
When the First World War monument was unveiled in 1923 there was an overflow crowd present. It was a testament to sacrifice, and we should see it today not only as a monument to military glory, but the ugliness of war.