Today marks the 100th anniversary of the day Britain joined World War One. That day, in the summer of 1914, no one knew just what destruction, death, sorrow and sacrifice the next four years would bring to Europe.
Today is a day to stop and reflect on those events, and what brought the world to that point. I won’t be awake at 10 o’clock to observe the “lights out” event ending at 23:00 to mark the exact moment Britain declared war, but I have lit a candle of remembrance this evening. My own small mark of respect.
At least once a week, I find myself passing the World War 1 memorial at Paddington station. Situated on Platform 1, it was erected by the Great Western Railway to commemorate the war, and mark the 3312 men and women from the company who lost their lives in the conflict. It is an imposing structure, but every day tourists, commuters and railway staff pass it by, almost unnoticed, as they go about their business. I can’t help but feel humbled by it.
I discovered recently that the memorial has a connection to my grandfather, who grew up in the area around Paddington. Apparently, as a child, he could be found playing on and around the memorial. Whenever I walk past, going about my own business, I often picture a young William clambering over the huge soldier’s feet, oblivious then to the meaning of its presence, and how his own life would, very soon, be affected by another bloody conflict.