I once went to visit the The Somme. It wasn’t really my intention. I got a cheap flight from Dublin to Beauvais and rather than go into Paris, (a city I’d been to on several occasions), I decided to head north.
I found myself in places like Albert, Amiens and Arras. Pretty much the front line back in 1916.
There’s a monument in Arras upon which are engraved 70,000 names of men and women who were killed. They weren’t the only ones killed there. (The total figure is around 158,000.) They were just the ones whose bodies could not be found. They had been vapourised by shelling.
Near Amiens I saw a bomb crater. Nothing unusual in that. The fact is, this crater was about 100 feet in diameter. And about 30-40 feet deep. It was on the German front line.
In Albert, I was walking down a country lane and, when I turned a corner, I was confronted by a Commonwealth cemetery. I have never seen so many white marble headstones in my life. Row upon row stretching into the distance. Many engraved with the epitaph: Here lies an unknown soldier.
It was one of the most moving experiences I have ever had.
My thoughts go out to all the people of all nations who have died in conflicts around the globe. And obviously, to their surviving ancestors. Though, I am finding it a little difficult to extend that sentiment to the Taliban at the moment.