In my nans photo albums there are 6 photos of war graves, in France. They are my Great Grans brothers. She never made it to France, but my grandad went and took the photos for her. They are what she had, a known resting place. So many did not. In my pre-kids days, husband and I took our holidays in Belgium and France, trudging the cemetaries, walking the Menin ridge, marking the front lines as we went, noting the piles of shells French and Belgian farmers left by the roadside for collection, even now. The large cemetaries are too huge to contemplate, your eye is stunned by the mass of white rectangles. And then you realise that some rectangles name 2, 3 even more, and the walls behind note even more. Imagine them all standing. And then the next cemetary, and the next. Chinese workers are shoved to the side, Indian soldiers given side rooms. And still, still, many more lie lost and unidentified. Someones son, brother, lover, husband.
In Britain, we are privilged, in one way, not to have these markers on our landscape. But, we have no daily reminder of the loss. In Arnhem, husband and I spent a day walking the route of the Market Garden assault, eventually fetching up at the cemetary. All the way there, there are markers of which soldier held the front, which soldiers were valiant, but fell. It's pitted into the pavement, in metal. Schoolchildren are given dedicated graves to tend, and hold a yearly service of thanks. In France, schools have a gravesite each to tend and look after. It was fought on their soil, they see. We do not. We have the odd white rectangle sent home to country churchyards. We forget, and we should not.