View across the Outer Harbour of Stornoway

Friday, 22 June 2012

Friday 22 June

The day started off wet and windy, but during the afternoon the wind dropped, the rain stopped and the sun came out. We managed 15C - and 5 mm of rain (one-fifth of an inch). We need more rain to really soak the ground and prevent the recurrence of those wildfires.

Spent a good part of the afternoon looking into the WW1 casualties from the village of Portnaguran. One family lost four of its five sons in the First World War. I wrote a blogpost about them on my local history blog Pentland Road. Portnaguran is a fishing village some 10 miles northeast of Stornoway, near the Tiumpan Head Lighthouse on the farthest point east in this island.


Tiumpan Head Lighthouse


As part of my researches into the casualties of both World Wars, I sometimes access the website of the Volksbund, the German counterpart of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission. Since I once submitted a query, related to the grave of a German submariner on one of the outlying Hebridean islands, I sometimes receive promotional material related to their work. This includes the promotion of reconciliation between former enemies or placing of flowers on wargraves of German soldiers abroad. A laudable aim, which I support by word only.

Today, I received a message regarding the 32,000 wargraves of German soldiers in the cemetery at Ysselsteijn, Holland who fell during the invasion and occupation of the Netherlands between 1940 and 1945. I shall leave it to German subscribers to the Volksbund to fund that project. I also adopt the same posture when German wargraves in other countries are concerned.

It is as a matter of principle that I shall not support the work of the Volksbund financially. I am quite happy to draw attention to their work, as in death, we are all equal, and most of the soldiers buried at Ysselsteijn just did what they were told to do, as soldiers. I am a former soldier myself, and know the score on that account. But for those left behind without their relatives, friends or ancestors, taken in sometimes extreme cruelty for no other reason than their religion or creed, by many of those now interred at Ysselsteijn and other places, I cannot bring myself to be more actively involved with the work of the Volksbund. As I said, that is up to German people to do.

I do not hate Germans, neither do I feel any animosity towards people from that country. During the past few years, I have met many German people and they are fine folk. In fact, Germans and British have a lot in common, in terms of character traits. I never refer to the years between 1933 and 1945 to them, although if broached, I will not fudge the subject. We all know what happened, but this is now the year 2012 and we should move forward - whilst being aware of the past, it should not rule our future.What happens if it does? Well, here are two examples.

In 1990, a war was started in the former Yugoslavia on account of the Battle of the Field of the Thrush in 1389 in Kosovo.

In 1969, a civil war commenced in Northern Ireland between Protestants and Catholics, which continued for more than 30 years until the atrocity of 9/11 demonstrated to the American backers of the IRA what terrorism actually meant. This civil war in Ulster was being justified by reference to the Battle of the Boyne of 1689 between Catholics and Protestants.