“If I should die, think only this of me:
That there’s some corner of a foreign field
That is for ever England.”
I wonder if, when Rupert Brooke wrote these words in 1914, he knew the extent to which they would resonate with soldiers and their families throughout the 100 years to follow. Brooke died of sepsis en route to Gallipoli with the Mediterranean Expeditionary Force in April 1915. Had he landed at Gallipoli he may very well have become one of the 141,000 allied casualties from the failed eight month long campaign. That was just one campaign; a single chapter in one war. Of course there have been countless campaigns since. Some have been successful and some disastrous, but all have required human sacrifice.
When I learned about the First and Second World Wars in school, I was naturally comforted by the fact that we always seemed to be the goodies. They were contests of good versus evil and although the suffering endured was terrible, at least my ancestors were on the right side and eventually good prevailed. Sadly, it’s not as clear cut these days. Ever since the most recent Iraq war, there have been question marks over the British government’s political objectives. However, whilst political motivations have become somewhat vague and questionable in recent years, the motivations of the soldiers remain the same as they have always been; to keep us safe from those who would do us harm and to protect our way of life. It is these soldiers of the past and present we all turn to think of today.
“...There shall be
In that rich earth a richer dust concealed;
A dust whom England bore, shaped, made aware,
Gave, once, her flowers to love, her ways to roam,
A body of England’s, breathing English air,
Washed by the rivers, blest by suns of home.
And think, this heart, all evil shed away,
A pulse in the eternal mind, no less
Gives somewhere back the thoughts by England given;
Her sights and sounds; dreams happy as her day;
And laughter, learnt of friends; and gentleness,
In hearts at peace, under an English heaven.”
Photograph of War Cemetery at Douvre-La-Delivrande, Normandy