I do not belong to a particular denomination of the Christian Faith, although I do regard the Free Church of Scotland with some affection. The Free Church is also known as “The Wee Frees. It is from them much of my outlook on life comes from. On trips back to Scotland I try if possible to look inside churches, many of which used to be Free Churches. The photograph comes from one such church in Stow in the Scottish Borders. Often asked what did the men who died in the Great War die for? Or sometimes just asked Why?
The Why did they die part is fairly easy to answer. They died because they were blown apart by Shell Fire. gassed, Shot by Machine Guns, Rifles, Revolvers, Bombed. Illness. They were Killed by the War, They died early because of the War.
The “For” is much harder to answer. We tell ourselves they died for, “King and Empire” “Freedom”, “Liberty” “So we could be free” and “We Shall Remember Them”. We tell the relatives something, anything, to make their deaths worthwhile. We do not remember them, the generation that did, is dead too. We do not know what they died “For”. These men and the others who died in the Empire’s Armies did not make Britain what it is today. They did not create the National Health Service, give votes to women. They did not give independence to the colonies. Many of the things we take for granted, Equal rights, Votes for everyone at 18, the NHS, women vicars, working on Sundays, oh and Christmas, they would have been horrified by the idea of celebrating that.
“They overcame by the blood of the lamb and by word of their testimony and they loved not their lives until death.” United Free Church War Memorial, Stow Scotland. None of this “They Died for Freedom” bullshit with the Wee Frees. and they certainly did not die so you could celebrate Christmas. The Wee Frees, did not and still do not celebrate anyone’s mass, not even Christ’s.
It is not the “Dead”. you should be thankful for and grateful to. It is the living, those who came back, the survivors. It was these men who changed the world. It was their experience of the trenches and the horrors of war. It was them, those that returned, that changed the way things were done, not the dead.