Tag Archives: war memorial

War Memorial Fail

When I wrote about our war memorials a year back, there was this one thing I changed in my behaviour. I no longer pass the plaques, monuments and other memorials indifferently. There is something about standing and writing down the names that make you realize that it is exactly what they are for- reading the names that are written on them. And maybe this is a little bit out of the subject of this blog, but nonetheless I wanted to write something about what happened to me recently:
I was walking by the Torquay war memorial the other day and noticed a curious thing. The monument is surrounded by a low fence, a chain strung along stone posts. I came closer, looking for a way inside. I don’t have eagle’s eyes, and the writing on the plates are barely visible from behind the chain. But there is no break in the chain-fence. I can’t approach and read the names on the plaques. And what exactly is this fence keeping out? Alright, I am (fairly) able-bodied, and can cross this fence with one stride, but what about those who can’t? Can’t an older or disabled person read our memorial? The Torquay war memorial is thus defunct- it doesn’t work as it should if we can’t read the names. And if we can’t read the names, why is it even there?

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I can’t tell history

History is a story with murky beginning, with no end in sight. That much everyone knows. But as I’ve learnt, by digging in dusty papers, is that history is a story you don’t tell- you interpret it. Having found an interesting bundle of letters in one of the folders I thought I can interpret a story of J.V.B King for you. However, sometimes you build an interpretation just to see it crumble before your eyes.
J.V.B King- a student of St. Mark College in the years 1915-17 and like many young men he went to fight in the WWI. The letters I found are dated 1919 and 1920. King had been discharged from the army. He wrote both to Rev. Hudson, the principal of St Mark College, and to the Board of Education to be released from his agreement as student teacher. ‘I no longer feel fit to become a teacher.’ he says in his letter to the Board of Education. ‘…I desire to lead an open air life…’ and the reason for this letter is that he had been gassed during his service.
Few months later, unable to contact him, the secretary of the Board of Education wrote to Rev. Hudson. ‘I have no direct evidence that he had been gassed,’ says the letter. Oh my precious history nerds! Please come out of the woodwork and tell me: could you obtain such evidence back then? A doctor’s note perhaps? Could you even do that with the so many people dead, maimed or gassed? I’m sure that he lived, I can’t remember seeing him on the war memorial…
Thus the letters end and I still don’t know if J.V.B King got his release. I even wonder if he really lost his health or he simply wanted out. If the former, then I can only imagine how heart-breaking it must have been to not be able to pursue something he worked hard for. If the latter, then I can’t really blame him as teaching, to me, is a worthy equivalent of hell.
I wish I could tell you the rest of it, that King became a farmer and happily grew cabbage to the end of his days. But, the history is the only story I cannot tell.

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