Thursday, 12 April 2012

The death of history

The 3rd East Kents at Albuhera
Nothing lasts forever, memory and interest fade. As someone who has been fascinated with history since I was a small boy (as the age of 8 I surprised the tour guide at Dover Castle by being able to tell him loading procedure for a cannon!) and have gone on to study it to post graduate level I am horrified at the gradual loss of history.

Does anyone remember Lieutenant Latham's heroic actions at the battle of Albuhera in 1811?
He served in the East Kent regiment during the battle. He defended the Kings colour from the French cavalry suffering severe injuries, lost half his face and left arm, suffered multiple stabs from lances and slashes from sabres but survived protecting the flag. He was a hero and is one of the names remembered by the Regiment.

How many people thought that Titanic was just a movie? According to one paper quite a few!

Whenever I am in museums I am shocked by the lack of interest in the history by school children and at the Imperial War Museum by the lack of respect for those who fell to protect this country. The First World War is nothing to them and the Second World War mainly the backdrop to Call of Duty.

Even within the Medway towns no one knows who Waghorn is other than a good statue to place traffic cones on. To be honest I had to look him up! I bet not many people have even seen the memorial behind the statue opposite the petrol station to the crew of a Royal Navy vessel but... I must be honest, I have read it, once, and failed to commit it to memory.
Who knows the story of Osmonde the VC holder buried in Woodlands Cemetery?

I could go on. The point is no one is interested and the memory has faded. As a whole, national memory fades three maybe four generations on - how long before the First World War is forgotten like the Boer War which ended just 12 years before? I find this particularly sad as two of my Great great Grandfathers were killed in the Boer war, one of whom I know next to nothing about, the other Corperal G.W Bone who died in 1900,  was a Royal Engineer (commemorated in Brompton Barracks) and never saw his first and only child. Now he is all but forgotten. Even if you do a google search you'll find nothing apart from his name and date of death.

I find this is an incredibly sad state of affairs. We are forgetting what our ancestors have done, how we got to where we are. History is becoming a dim memory when really it is like the conscience of a nation. England and Great Britain have done a lot to be proud of such as Industry, Railways, exploration, democracy, art, literature...
It has also done a lot to be ashamed of including Genocide, Religious intolerance, Concentration camps (During the Second Boer War and considered to have been the inspiration for the Nazi camp Dachau.) Biological Warfare (General Amherst, the namesake of Medway's fort, suggested during Pontiac's rebellion that  blankets from Small pox hospitals should be handed out to the native population in the hope it would cleanse them) and of course Slavery.

It is important we hold on to this in going forward.

I also, personally believe that we should remember family members who have done something and their memory passed down unfortunately I don't know how long that can continue. I know both my Grandfather's war records and stories and I will pass them on to Sophie but how likely is she to remember. After all one of her Great Grandfathers has already died the other is in his 90's and may not be around when she's older. If she does pass them to her children why should they care for two men who they never met and were involved in things that happened almost a century beforehand?

It is sad but I guess inevitable that these experiences and actions are doomed to pass into obscurity. Should we forget it though?

1 comment:

  1. A friend just told me about this great spot online about world war 1 and 2 because he is aware I am looking for sources online about this topic. Thanks Tim.