Every Sunday morning we wrangle the girls into something clean and tidy, negotiate the number of teddies, cars, crayons and other paraphernalia that we’re prepared for them to take and us to carry home, and set off down the hill to church. We don’t live too far away, it isn’t that big a village, and even Elma’s legs are long enough to keep up as we scuttle along.
Given that we do live in a village, and going just about anywhere means loading up the car, it’s lovely just to step outside and walk. We get to see the minute changes as the village cycles through the seasons, from the piercing blue sky of a mid summer’s day, to the frost sparkling on the tips of the trees on the green on an icy December morning, the first crocuses outside the house with the much adored garden, and the virginia creeper on the brick wall opposite turning from green to brilliant crimson every autumn. We see the things that change, and the things that stay the same.
We walk along by the road for a little while, then cross over, through the gate and up along the brick path, around the corner and on and into church. And there at the corner stands a stone cross. It’s not enormous or intricate, just a simple stone cross standing 6 feet or so at the corner of the churchyard, mounted on a plinth and inscribed with a handful of names.
Names that we walk past every week without really paying them too much attention. Ten names, of “the men of this parish who suffered and gave their lives in the Great War 1914-1918”.
They were labourers, a stockman, a gas stoker and an employee of the local excise office; very ordinary young men really, some with wives and families, and all with hopes and dreams that never came to be. What’s so desperately sad, is that six of the ten lost their lives in 1918, mere months before the armistice.
On most days the memorial is just part of the fabric of our village, a landmark in its centre, a constant throughout the seasons. But today we’ll stop as we walk by. Stop to remember. Stop to say their names aloud. Stop to ensure that their stories do not fade away.
They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun, and in the morning
We will remember them.