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Listening to accounts from The Somme: Do we need to dig up graves to understand its significance?

Listening to accounts from The Somme: Do we need to dig up graves to understand its significance?

You're weighed down, in a fit of adrenaline, but you can't move. You hear the sound of your childhood friends, screaming in agony from over the parapet, and they will never leave you. The only space you can occupy right now in this world is here, shoulder to shoulder with the debris that used to be your best friend. And there's nothing that you can do. The only thing that you feel is a sense of 'why me, why was I allowed to survive?', and it's all that you'll feel for the rest of your life.

I'm sat down at my desk, in my shed, listening to first hand accounts from The Battle of the Somme on Radio 4. Whispered, broad regional accents spoke into a dusty microphone decades ago and now they resound around my room. Creeping through my desk radio, it is a sound like nothing I've heard before: it is the sound of the absense of humanity. These people traded their humanity, their lives, so that maybe we could have a chance to be intimate with it. They detached themselves from the world so that we would be more connected to one another, to this earth. 

Commemorating the Somme goes further than an annual ceremony at Thiepval or nodding along to an anecdote on the news, paying the respects to the hundreds and millions of people who died on European soil over a hundred years ago lies in something completely different. It means remembering what they died for. It means living under the banner of unity they paid for in blood. And when Second World War veterans can make their voices clear, begging for no Brexit, and we still ignore them, where do we turn? Our only option left is to unturf the fields of Pozieres, deseed the farms of Mouqet and hold up the corpses of our forefathers, who died trying to hold the fabric of this continent and this world together.


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