It’s our responsibility to keep memories alive for future generations

Poppies, picture by Adrian Mortimer of Hightown.
Poppies, picture by Adrian Mortimer of Hightown.

This year, 2014, marks 100 years since the start of the First World War and the Government has many plans to commemorate this massive milestone in history.

It saddens me to think that arguably the most poignant anniversary will, for the second year running, be missing the final remaining First World War veterans.

These remarkable people are no longer here to give their first-hand accounts of what it was like to really experience the atrocities, but also to tell their uplifting stories of hope, bravery and friendship experienced along the way.

The last remaining veteran, Florence Green, passed away in 2012, just two weeks before her 111th birthday. The great-grandmother signed up to the Women’s Royal Air Force (WRAF) 96 years ago in September 1918, when she was just 17.

Without people that were actually there, how will the reality of such momentous events in history live on with the same resonance for our children’s generation and for all those to come?

This week also saw the release of a heart-wrenching letter, written by Rose Amelie Icard, a survivor of the Titanic disaster. Ms Icard, believed to have been the maid of first-class passenger Martha Stone, tells of the horror and “sublime heroism” witnessed on the ship before the stricken vessel vanished towards the ocean floor.

Relating how she was “still suffering from nightmares 43 years on”, Ms Icard tells how she was almost trapped in the bowels of the vessel as she tried to retrieve Mrs Stone’s jewellery from her cabin.

She recounts how she chose the wrong stairwell and had to return to the deck, or she would most certainly have perished.

“When I got back to the deck, the scene that greeted me included women, still in evening gowns, some just out of bed, barely clothed and dishevelled and scrambling for the boats. Near me were two handsome elderly people, Mr and Mrs Straus, proprietors of the great store Macy’s of New York.

“She refused to go into the boat after having helped in her maid. She put her arms around the neck of her husband, telling him: ‘We have been married 50 years, we have never left each other, I want to die with you’.”

Listening to these first-hand experiences evokes real feelings of sorrow and awe.

We are now responsible for keeping these memories alive for our children and carrying forward the legacies put in our hands for safekeeping.