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On Commemoration

Global Reflections upon Remembering War

Edited By Catherine Gilbert, Kate McLoughlin and Niall Munro

How, in the twenty-first century, can we do commemoration better? In particular, how can commemoration contribute to post-war reconciliation and reconstruction? In this book, a global roster of distinguished writers, artists, musicians, religious leaders, military veterans and scholars debate these questions and ponder the future of commemoration. They include the world-renowned architect Daniel Libeskind, the Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Tony Horwitz, the award-winning novelists Aminatta Forna and Rachel Seiffert, and the human rights lawyer and Gifford Baillie Prize-winner Philippe Sands. Polemics and reflections together with poetry and creative prose movingly illuminate a subject that speaks to our common humanity.

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What Is It All About? (Frank Ledwidge)

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frank ledwidge

Author and former military intelligence officer Frank Ledwidge challenges the relevance of the First World War centenary commemorations in light of the many brutal conflicts that are ongoing around the globe today.

The largest commemoration event of 2017, and indeed as commemoration fatigue had just begun to set in, probably the largest of all First World War centenary events was the series of media and other activities surrounding the anniversary of the Third Battle of Ypres. This terrible battle is better known as Passchendaele. I joined the crowds touring the various battlefields and cemeteries. I was there to attend ceremonies ‘remembering’ my great-uncle, a well-known Irish poet.

Two thoughts came to mind as an observer and indeed participant. First, and this is little more than an observation, not a single person of the tens of thousands in the area was in a position actually to remember any one of the half-million or so on both sides occupying the graves of the Ypres Salient. Interestingly, perhaps, I neither saw nor heard any German commemoration tourists. In the words of Seamus Heaney (in a slightly different context) dead Germans ‘consort now underground’ in similar numbers to the ‘true blue ones’ of the British armies.1 Yet Germans do not have the virtual obsession that the British, and in fairness British former colonies such as Canada and Australia have with the First World War.

Secondly, and of far more importance, no reference was ever...

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