Wednesday, November 23, 2005

He saw three centuries.

There was some sad news this week about Alfred Anderson, the last person to witness the famous WW1 Christmas truce in the trenches, who died aged 109.

I found this interview with him. I was especially struck by the fact that he saw three centuries. It's rare to live past 100, and it must be very rare to be born in a year when you have a realistic chance of seeing three different centuries. It would take me until 131.

We'll soon be in the happy situation, as a society, where few people will remember going to war; obviously there will be people who voluntarily joined the forces and were sent to Iraq, or wherever, but the WW2 generation are at least 78 now. I suppose it's different for US readers (Hi there) who might have relatives who went to Korea or Vietnam, but I suggest that everyone here makes an effort to listen to elderly people, because we'll gradually lose anybody who could give a firsthand account of war.

Although, on the other hand, we'll gradually gain refugees and asylum seekers who know only too well about war; in addition, as more Eastern Europeans make their homes here, there will be people who remember the conflict in places like Bosnia. I kept thinking, when we were in Croatia, that even teenagers there could remember what it was like to be at war.

Sorry, I'll be a bit less heavy next time!