It seems appropriate that I choose day number 45 to talk about war, the second world war ending in 1945. I’m actually a day late for the seventy-fifth anniversary of peace, but here in New Zealand it would have been today that people awoke to the news that the war in Europe was over.
There were many celebrations planned in Britain to commemorate VE Day, and the May Bank Holiday was moved to Friday 8th May to allow people to celebrate in style. Covid put an end to that, much the same as the war whose end was remembered put an end to normal life in Britain over eighty years ago. Much has been said recently about the suffering experienced during the subsequent six years, and how the privations we are currently facing in our various locked down countries are really nothing in comparison.
I’ve often commented how glad I am that I’ve never had to say goodbye to a loved one marching off to fight, not knowing if or when I would see them again. Sheffield was heavily bombed during the second world war, a price it paid for its vital industry, and I can’t imagine how it must have been for my grandparents with a young family, hearing explosions night after night as the bombs landed around them. Thereafter, Nannan hated bonfire night, the fireworks bringing back too many memories of the blitz.
Anzac Day (New Zealand’s official day of remembrance) was also commemorated during lockdown and in one way similar to how VE Day was yesterday in Britain. There were no street parties and no one hung out any bunting or flags, but people stood at the end of their driveways for the two-minute silence as those in the northern hemisphere stood in their streets to remember.
None of us that have lived through it will forget this period in our lives, although the details may fade. The mind does that, focussing on happy memories in place of those we’d rather not think about. I doubt that in nearly a hundred years’ time people will stand in the streets in silence to remember a pandemic, but they will probably do so to remember those who fought for freedom, and those who lost their lives fighting for it. And so it should be.
Note: the photos were taken at Pukeahu War Memorial in Wellington, during the 100th anniversary commemoration of the armistice that ended the first World War. Just in case anyone is worried about the lack of social distancing evident in them!