WPC Numbers: War Memorials (World War I and II)

Today’s entry for the Weekly Photo Challenge: Numbers is just a few of the photos I collected around Europe showing the numbers of people who died in the two world wars.

Britain's highest war memorial, on Ben Nevis,
Britain’s highest war memorial, on Ben Nevis, taken with my phone because I wasn’t climbing Britain’s highest mountain with an extra 2kg of photographic equipment!! Taken August 2015.
Britain's highest war memorial, on Ben Nevis,
A zoomed in crop to show the words on Britain’s highest war memorial, on Ben Nevis. They aren’t being taken care of and are in danger of being lost as the lichen grows over them.

In Britain, every town, every village, every city has its war memorial.  It is a constructed object, such as a sculpture or a stone alcove, which serves to remind us of the people who never came home from World War I and World War II.

I once had the fortune to actually visit the war graveyard in Huddersfield.  It’s not for the faint hearted and I remember trying to read every single headstone, the name of every single person interred there.

The number of people who died on both sides in World War I and II is staggering.  When reading/experiencing that aspect of history, it tends to make me have a panic attack; the sheer inescapability of death was a daily reality for most of these people.  Having PTSD, I find this immensely triggering and tend to suppress the anxiety, leading to the delayed reactions I keep getting told are really unhealthy – the migraines, the vomiting, feeling angry (because I’m feeling so shaken) for hours, sometimes days afterwards.  I hate thinking about these wars, but I feel like I should, because they happened, and these people’s lives are over as a result, and the world would be very different if they had not happened.

The writing explains who the Wild Geese were.
The writing explains who the Wild Geese were. Dublin Museum’s exhibition on Irish Military History, Ireland, 2015.
Gottfried von Banfield's Order of Maria Theresa
Gottfried von Banfield’s Order of Maria Theresa, Dublin.
Wild Geese Gottfried von Banfield Order of Maria Theresa Ireland
Gottfried von Banfield, son of Patrick Banfield from Cork, Ireland, was the last person to be awarded the Order of Maria Theresa. He died in 1986 in Trieste, Italy. He was the last of the Wild Geese.

I wasn’t born then, so of course I never asked them to go to war for me, to ensure my future survival, but they did anyway.  Whichever side these soldiers were on, they were treated like millions of expendable ants at the beck and call of their country.  For that, for the fact that they were put in this shitty impossible situation with no real chance of surviving it, we should be fucking grateful to them.  We should have some empathy.  It makes me angry to think that some people pretend these wars never happened, people pretend that the Holocaust never happened, how can anyone really believe that?  I think in their hearts they know it to be true.

Memorials for Jewish deaths in Salzburg
Many of the victims of the Second World War were innocent people trying to go about their daily lives. These four people were all killed in concentration camps.

I’ve talked before about the memorials in the photos above in Impressions of Salzburg.  What I’ve never talked about was my experience in Salzburg Museum, because it set off my PTSD and made me sickened and pretty depressed. The Salzburg Museum’s exhibition of the First World War was a particular eye opener.  The Austrian point of view is that they were defending their assassinated archduke.  The exhibit explained an awful lot about World War I that we in England tend to not get told, and English speaking resources tend to follow suit.

World war 1 great war first world war Austria memorial cards German soldiers deaths
These are Austrian memorial cards, with names and photos, of dead soldiers. Relatives at home will have had these printed when they were told their loved ones had died in the trenches. Taken in Salzburg Museum.

I would strongly urge anyone with an interest in the history of the Great War to research original non-British primary sources as well as the English sources we’re used to seeing, to get a more balanced view of the First World War, who was actually fighting it, and how it caused the second.  I’m not taking sides here, but it’s damn scary to see how Britain actually contributed to the rise of Fascism and Nazism, and I think there’s a lot of lessons we aren’t learning while we pretend our government wasn’t part of the problem in that first war.  The individual soldiers, of course, had no idea of this.  The only people who should have been involved in that war were Austria and Serbia, and as a result of ridiculously convoluted diplomatic ties, millions upon millions of lives were lost for no reason on all sides.  Many were aged 16-18.

We need to remember them, otherwise we could *be* them.

A quote from Karl Kraus, printed on a white board as part of the Great War Exhibition at Salzburg Museum, August 2014
A quote from Karl Kraus, printed on a white board as part of the Great War Exhibition at Salzburg Museum, August 2014
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I woke up to find a For Sale sign under the bed… Some party (this is for Mother’s Day):

My Aunt was like a mother to me. Unlike my actual mum.
My aunt took me in after I’d been drifting from sofa to sofa, and she got me back into school and supported me through applying to university (it’s a longer story, you don’t want to hear it, I don’t want to tell it), something I never thought I’d do, along with the millions of other things that mothers do for their children.  Nobody asked her to, but she did it anyway because she thought it was the right thing to do.
I don’t always appreciate her anywhere near as much as I ought.

Anyway, that’s why my article on mother’s day is actually going to be about my aunt.
It’s inspired by Laura’s post over on Laura Living Life where she talks about the secrets we keep from our parents. I was thinking about the “breaking things” thing, and remembered a funny story from about 10 years ago, before I moved in with my now-husband:

My aunt and uncle had gone on holiday somewhere (I think Italy), and the cousins were in charge of the house. They planned and executed a house party, while I was at my other aunt’s house for the week, staying with her. She drove me back and I arrived in time for the house party. I think I drank most of a bottle of Jack Daniel’s that night – at the time, every party I went to, I’d drink most of a bottle of whatever whisky was available (or whiskey – I’m pretty sure I have resistance to both from the Irish side of the family though), otherwise I’d go for any other alcohol in similar quantities, so I don’t remember everything that happened.

I remember myself and a couple of other people attempting to walk across the kitchen to prove how sober we were, and I remember that we were pretty much walking sideways. I remember talking absolute crap about nothing important, and probably being a crashing bore (as I was prone to). I remember posing for this picture (my cousins were more sensible):

beer trophy for sale sign
That’s me at the front. I had absolutely nothing to do with the acquisition of the sign, I just thought it was really funny. I think one of the lads in the picture stole the sign but I don’t know.

I have no idea where the For Sale sign came from or how it came to be in my room, but when I awoke, it was there, under my bed, in the room I shared with my cousin, and my 3 cousins had no better idea than I as to where it came from, let alone who had got it up the stairs or why it was under the bed!
When we ventured downstairs, we were horrified to see that there was more to this story:
There was also a Little Tykes rocking horse see-saw thing, in lurid green plastic, there was a ladder, and I’m pretty sure there was also a duck.
There were other things too, but I don’t remember what they were. Unfortunately last year when I lost all my old photos (except the ones I’d grabbed off Facebook before I deleted my account, which is how I have the picture above) the other pictures of this party went the same way.

Now I think about it, I’m pretty sure at least one person used the ladder to get onto the garage roof, with the intent of getting back indoors via the bathroom window (which they thankfully didn’t actually manage).

But the For Sale sign was the sticking point. We needed to get it out of the house before my aunt and uncle got back. I can’t remember if they were due back later that day or not.
The four of us carefully manoeuvred the huge sign out of my bedroom and down the stairs. I think I was at the front. The thing about those stairs is that they curved, and there was a window and a holy water ceramic ornament thingy by the window, then there was the front door. The sign started moving a bit too fast from behind and suddenly we were about to put it through the window so we turned it sharply to avoid it, and I felt it smack into the holy water ornament thingy. I think we all just winced in horror as it hit the floor and smashed, but we still had to get the sign out of the house, so we tried not to break anything else as we worked out how the hell to get the rest of the sign around the corner of the stairs and out the front door.  It was like one of those impossible puzzles.

At the time, the cousins all shared ownership of an ageing N-reg Renault Megane, which isn’t the largest car in the universe. Somehow, we managed to get this For Sale sign into the car (I still don’t know how we did it) and then went back into the house to grab the other beer trophies. We had to be incognito because it was now broad daylight.
So someone started the car up and we drove around Uttoxeter trying to remember where all this stuff had come from (which was difficult, because I’m pretty sure none of us were actually involved in the stealing of any of this stuff, so we just had other people’s vague descriptions, half-remembered from the night before, to go on). We had directions like “the rocking horse came from the place with the big hole in the fence and the angry dog” to go on. But somehow we managed to return all this stuff to vaguely where it had come from and we got back home.

There was a LOT of cleaning up to be done, and a few things had been broken or lost.
I’m pretty sure some party guest made off with my uncle’s slippers, because he was wandering around the house looking for them for weeks afterwards (I really don’t know why anyone in their early 20’s would steal a pair of grandad slippers but then again, how did we end up with this Estate Agent sign???) so there was a lot of stuff that didn’t really make any sense.

At some point, I remember looking at the broken ornament on the floor of the hall. It was very badly smashed, and I don’t think there was anything anyone could have done to repair it at that point. One of us wrapped it up in newspaper and put it in the bin. It might have been me, I can’t remember.

When they got back, my aunt kept asking what had happened to it. I felt awful. I wanted to tell her but I didn’t want to land my cousins in trouble for having a house party. So eventually I said “I do know what’s happened to it but I can’t tell you because it’ll get someone else in trouble” (I was a pompous ass at this age).

I honestly don’t know how we managed to get the house looking even vaguely tidy after that house party, as hungover as we were, but we went on to have other parties in the years to follow, so we became cleaning ninjas – my aunt and uncle have NO IDEA how much cleaning we did to get the house looking like no-one had cleaned in a week, every time they went on holiday.

Which just leaves the question of exactly what happened to the duck, which is anybody’s guess.

Happy Mother’s day.