Last week I was watching an episode of the BBC4 serial 1914-1918, at one point it showed footage of men affected by shell shock. Apparently the footage has not been seen for over 80 years and was filmed in hospitals. One man couldn't bear to look at an officiers hat, another when hearing a loud bang just jumped under his bed. It was perhaps some of the most disturbing TV I have ever watched.
I have mentioned before on this blog the excellent film The Best Years of Our Lives. If you have never watched it drop everything get a copy and do. It tells of three American serviceman returning home after WWII to their small town. It is deeply moving and I think shows why Americans and Europeans misunderstand each other.
The small town didn't understand what the serviceman had gone through. The American pysche is not scarred, I listened many times to stories of the blitz, of doodle bugs and the V2 from my parents and grandparents. The French, Germans and Russians have seen their countries devastated. War to them is not something that happens overseas far away its something that is personal. It explains the differing attitudes to Iraq and foreign intervention between mainland Europe and the US.
This was brought home to me against recently when watchng the excellent World at War series. I can only echo the sentiments of one of the youtube commentors
the first 90 seconds stands as one of the most powerful sequences ever written for television.
This must not happen again. Today of all days we should remember those whatever their nationality, race or relgion have paid the utimate sacrifice so that we could sit here today.
In Flanders Fields
In Flanders Fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.
We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders Fields.
Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.