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from the Guardian 11 November 2002

True Remembrance
Restoring war memorials is part of it


(Leader comment)

On this day when the guns of the Great War at last fell silent, it is good to reflect that one promise by politicians has not been broken, because it was shared and is still shared by the nation at large. We have not forgotten those pitiful deaths in the mud and the icy seas. Unlike so much of the misty procession of receding history, they do not grow old and we do remember them.
The process is sometimes overlooked, like the annual discovery by thousands of young people of the war poets, whose work is so well displayed in Anthem for Doomed Youth, at the Imperial War Museum until the end of April. The A-level exam has taken a battering this year, but its English module on war poetry refreshed the memory of Pudney's pilot, Johnny-head-in-air, of the tragi-comic Himmelstoss from Remarque's All Quiet On the Western Front and of Owen's bugles calling from sad shires.

Those shires are the setting for more familiar acts of remembrance held yesterday and today at the war memorials which have become as central to British village life as the church, pub and green. Most are immaculately kept by local people - a fact often remarked on by foreign visitors; but it is vigilant of the charity Friends of War Memorials to notice and warn that some are falling into decay. The Home Office has responded quickly by issuing a code of preservation practice. It also embraces those gilt-lettered boards, which can end in skips when a business that faithfully honoured its dead employees goes bust.

It is not compulsory but neither is it onerous; registering details on the National Inventory of War Memorials is the main thing; all manner of volunteers and agencies can then help. The reward of it all is a constant reminder of the incalculable value of our freedoms. Instinctively, you look at the list for your own surnames or for those of friends. From Atkins to Patel, there will always be a familiar one there.



Aftermath - when the boys came home

Friday 11 February 2005

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