Stumbling upon War

There is a cemetery near my house. I only “discovered” it recently when meandering my way home. I knew there was a cemetery there but I did not realise I could cycle through it until I was led that way by a cyclist who lived near me. We were discussing routes home from the centre of town to our area and she said, “How do you feel about cycling through a graveyard at night?” My reply (“What graveyard?”) elicted a cheery, “Cool! Follow me!”

I think she thought I was saying, “Meh, I take no not notice of such things,” rather than, “Er, there’s a graveyard?”

It is a really lovely way to cycle. After a fast downhill alongside fast traffic, I turn and am suddenly confronted with silence and peace. Fittingly, my pace slows (there is a slight uphill) and I drift along the path that runs across the middle of the cemetery.

This is a newer cemetery than the one closer to the centre of town. There are fewer crumbling tombstones being reclaimed by ivy. Instead, there are obviously new stones and blue plastic flowers adorn rather too many of them.

The War Cemetery at Hollybrook.

Tucked away in a corner are well-kept rows of starkly plain tombstones, surrounded by neat box hedges.  These arrest my attention and I drop my bike alongside the path and wander slowly among the stones, reading names and dates of birth.  I can’t help it but I tear up: these men all died aged between 20 and 23.  I was still in university at that age, still in my home town, barely done any travel; I had not, as they say, lived a full life.

There’s an even smaller section full of Germanic names. I wonder where their loved ones are.

I cycled the rest of the short way home very slowly indeed.

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3 Comments

  1. I ran into my cousin’s cousin last night. He just got back from 13 months in Afghanistan. Last time I saw him, he was probably around 8 years old? He’s 21 now. Still just a kid! Too young to go to war.

    Then I thought of all the Americans who went to Vietnam. Drafted at 18. They’re all kids.

    Reply

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