Tuesday, February 7, 2012

The Last Ghost of 1914

A brief post today to remember Florence Green, the last surviving veteran of the Great War. She passed away a few days ago in Norfolk, England, at the age of 110. Mrs. Green joined the then-newly founded Women's Royal Air Force (WRAF) during the last months of the war, in autumn of 1918. As a war worker, she served meals to officers at the RAF Marham base and at Narborough airfield. The BBC has a video of Mrs. Green talking about her experiences, along with further details about her life.

Photo of Florence Green with her WRAF service corps at Narborough airfield, 1918.
With Green now gone, along with Claude Choules (the last male British veteran), Harry Patch, and Frank Buckles (the last American veteran), who also made up the small company of longest-lived veterans, we have entered a new era. The experience of the Great War is no longer among the living but now lives in memory. It is a momentous thing for a war to pass fully from recall to record. It is important, in the face of such an inevitability, to preserve the human hold on history and to maintain our perspective on the events of the Great War such that we understand (or try to understand) what it meant to live through it--so that the nature and costs of such a conflict remain human-scaled, even at a vantage point of a hundred years away. I feel that it is only with such a perspective that the history of war can point to peace.

In the spirit of maintaining a human hold on history, I urge you to seek out the recollections of family and friends. NPR's StoryCorps project offers an inspirationally wide array of recorded personal stories, some of which are about combat experience. Ask an elder in your community to tell you about his or her memories. Take notes and ask questions. Bring a tape recorder. I guarantee you a fascinating chat, whether you talk of war and peace or cabbages and kings.

© Fiona Robinson

No comments:

Post a Comment