Lest We Forget…

awm-roll-honour5Today (or tomorrow, depending on when you read this) is Anzac Day. I’m neither Australian nor a New Zealander, but I stand with friends from those countries on this day. Among many reasons for that, I think it’s important to take some time to reflect on the real costs of war. And there are tremendous costs that have nothing to do with money.

One of those costs is the lives and potential contributions of so many, many young people. Behind each tick mark in a tally of those killed is someone who could have been… who knows what? We’ll never know now. Along with that are the other personal costs (children left without parents, parents left without children, partners left alone, and families and groups of friends now incomplete).

Even for those who physically survive war, there’s an awful price to pay. All it takes is a quick look at crime fiction to remind ourselves of that. For example, Chris Womersley’s Bereft is, among other things, a stark look at the cost of World War I. When Quinn Walker returns to the small town of Flint, New South Wales just after the Great War, he brings with him the scars left by the war. And he finds that those left behind have suffered deeply, too.

Steve Sailah’s A Fatal Tide also offers a glimpse of what World War I was really like. It was dirty, bloody, and devastating on so many levels. In one plot thread of this mystery, Thomas Clare learns the stark and truly ugly difference between ‘home front’ concepts of war and the brutal reality of it.

Anne Perry’s historical World War I series also shows that difference between what many people had imagined would happen (a few short battles, relatively casualty-free as these things go) and what did happen (a long, drawn-out, incredibly costly and extremely bloody war). And although Shayne Parkinson’s Daisy’s War isn’t, strictly speaking, a crime novel, it too depicts the fear as the Great War came closer, and the potential costs of that war.

Geoffrey McGeachin’s Charlie Berlin novels give a vivid picture of what it was like for those who came back from World War II. Many veterans were able to heal physically, but were left with deep and permanent psychological scars. Books such as these show that a war isn’t something you stop doing and then leave behind as if nothing had happened. Even when they do get on with life, those involved in war are changed and marked by that experience; they can’t help it.

There are of course many other novels that focus on war and its aftermath. The point of this post isn’t to list them all. Each one of them, though, reminds us of the consequences of getting into a war: many thousands of young people who will never have a chance to be what they might have been, and many thousands more who have to go on without them. And that’s to say nothing of the economic costs of war (also covered in many, many novels).

So today I’m taking some time to remember those many proud Australians and New Zealanders who never came home. I am grateful for their sacrifices and those of their families, as they have helped to protect me. I also mourn their loss. I hope someday we will learn from this loss to think very carefully about the true, human cost of war.


Ps. The ‘photo is of the Australian War Memorial in Canberra. Each of those names represents s a life lost. Let us not forget them…


Filed under Anne Perry, Chris Wormersley, Geoffrey McGeachin, Shayne Parkinson, Steve Sailah

20 responses to “Lest We Forget…

  1. Among the people who didn’t come home would be writers, poets, dancers, scientists, doctors, lawyers, politicians, and average citizens. Some of them might have left a mark- for good or not- most would not. But each is a life that has been snuffed out before its prime. Each would have left behind mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, cousins and friends to mourn their passing. There would be girlfriends who never get over the love, wives who mourn more visibly, and children who will never know their fathers (or mothers, as more women go to war).
    Isn’t the price too high to pay, for something that can be settled across a negotiating table- and evyerhting can be sorted out thus.

    Thank you for making us remember.

    • You make such a good point, Natasha. I think that’s why we need to think very carefully about everything that is lost when there is a war. And you’ve done a beautiful and evocative job of putting it all into perspective. So much potential – whatever it may be – and so many lives aare simply ended when people go to war.

  2. Col

    Margot, a timely post.

  3. Lovely post, and important words.

  4. An important reminder and so well said. 🙂

  5. And among the lost dead are the lost living -those that came home wounded invisibly by their experience. Was it because they weren’t tough enough or because they were lovely, intelligent, imaginative humans who couldn’t make proper sense of what they saw because it WAS insensible. Thanks dear woman.

    • I couldn’t possibly have put that better, Jan. It was indeed insensible, and those who saw that often suffered horribly. They may have survived physically, but they were, as you put it, the lost living. They too paid an awful price…

  6. I don’t much about this war in particular. I do, however, have quite a few friends who survived the Vietnam war and suffer terribly from the aftereffects. This is an important topic, Margot, one that’s not often explored in blogging. Good for you!

  7. An excellent reminder for us all!

  8. A sobering and well-written post, Margot. It is amazing how many events in World War I and World War II I was unaware of until I started reading mysteries set in those times. Which motivated me to learn more.

    • Thanks, Tracy. Reading has made me a lot more aware, too, of what happened during the two World Wars (and others, too). The older I get, the less patience I have with any kind of glorification of war.

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