Sunday, 5 January 2014

Thoughts on the Centenary

We are just five days into the New Year and it is really amazing to read the many articles appearing in various media outlets about the Centenary. It is also very welcome to see some of the articles and the recent speech by MP Michael Gove beginning to address the issue that concerns me most of all about the upcoming commemorations.  This is the ‘lions led by donkeys’ myth that has been perpetuated for far too many years now.

Over the coming months and years it should become apparent to everyone that the reality of the Great War was nothing like ‘Blackadder,’ and ‘Oh What a Lovely War.’ To think about those men in such terms is a veritable insult to their memory and their sacrifice.

I am very much looking forward to the forthcoming BBC programmes both fact and fiction about the Great War and the plethora of new titles to be published.

On the Great War fiction front, I have very much enjoyed the marvellous At Break of Day by Elizabeth Speller – In fact, I bought several extra copies to give to family and friends at Christmas.

On the factual side, I am re-reading First World War by Martin Gilbert which is probably the best single volume history of the war out there.

Finally, one of the best things to come out of publishing my own book has been getting in touch with my long lost cousins. My cousin Jackie and I met up for the first time in over 35 years recently and to my delight she had a vast collection of family photographs. The picture below is of our great great great grandfather, Richard Cook and, we believe, Eddie Cook taken sometime around the turn of the last century. The little boy would grow up and go to war as 2nd Lieutenant R.E. Cook of the 11th Suffolks and would die of a gun shot wound to the abdomen during the battle of the Lys on 13th April 1918, aged just 20. These are the facts and it is these facts that should be remembered not caricatured and belittled.

Renny Richardson.

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