Learning Through Death

Dear Gabriel,

We must learn to think of death and learn by it. I was reading a book commenting on the dead of the Second World War. A small school with sometime perhaps not more than two hundred boys in the 1930s and 20s. Over one hundred names – a picture and a brief description of a short life on each page. One family had lost an only child, another two brothers lost on consequent pages – some killed in May/June 1940. Then a trickle and finally a little flood in the Bocage campaign of the 1944 Normandy invasion.

I came away with a profound sense of depression of the wake of war; these young men staring out at me, none old and none more tragic than a young man with a German Father and British Mother and British life working in London in 1938/9 who decided to return to Germany in the Summer when war became inevitable and was killed on the Eastern Front in 1941.

At the front of the book is a beautiful preface by Lord Peter Rawlinson saying how a group of old men returned for the refurbishment of the war memorial where he had been at school sixty-one years before. The memorial said that in his short life, the German officers’ happiest times were at school. How sad.