World War One ended 90 years ago from Tuesday next, on November 11, 1918.
Even though this war ended decades before I was born, it has a special resonance with me. It was this war that killed some of my ancestral relatives, and it was this war that established the mass killings and utter trivialisation of human life that were to perpetually mar the the 20th century.
These graves, of young Canadian soldiers, are to be found in Bramshott village in Hampshire where my grandparents had a home. There was a large training camp for Canadian soldiers on nearby Bramshott Common.
Some of the soldiers wounded in France returned to Bramshott for hospitalization, some that died (either of their wounds or of the worldwide 'flu epidemic that struck at war's ending) are buried in the churchyard of St Mary the Virgin.
This stone caught my eye this summer. We had driven through Oxford County on our way to Montreal in summer, 2005, and what a journey it must have been from that open Canadian farmland to the hell of warfare in France. A journey with no return.
What a waste.
Here, though, I could see that the graves were well-tended and free of weeds (unlike other parts of the churchyard). All the good work of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission.
It's worth remembering that at this stage of the 20th century, all of this was yet to come. War was still regarded with a certain dashing romanticism, especially by those who chose to ignore the clear warnings of conflicts such as the American Civil War. I really hope that we know better by now, in the young years of this 21st century. In a week where the election of Barack Obama has given new hope and upended the old order, perhaps we can finally move on.
In the meantime, never forget.