In the First and Second World Wars soldiers of many nations jointly operated in various theatres of war. Recently Indian soldiers who had participated in the Second World War and are still surviving were honoured in Moscow in commemoration of the 60th anniversary of the World War II. Indian soldiers who had died in the World War I were respected with due honours in the Memorial at Neuve Chapelle in France too. But a War Memorial has yet to be built in India in memory of Indian soldiers who sacrificed their lives in the World Wars!
World wars, Vietnam War, Afghan War and Iraqi War are horrible to think about. Wars are not liked by anyone nowadays. Who are the soldiers and what happens to their lives are worth pondering over. In that regard the essay, THE UNKNOWN WARRIOR by A.G. Gardiner is worth reading to know about the soldiers’ sacrifices due to war.
The nameless figure that was borne over land and sea to mix its dust with the dust of England was called the unknown warrior. For, he had no name and he represented millions of English soldiers who had died in a hundred fields. That was why he was called so. The English saluted their dead soldiers through the unknown warrior.
Who Joined Army?
The occasion of the interment of the unknown warrior made the nation remember what happened at the beginning of the war. At the beginning of the war people came from Hebrides and the Glens of the North, from the mines of Durham and the shipyards of Clyde and Tyne, from Yorkshire and Lancashire and from the distant colonies to join the army. They all spoke English with different accents. Yet they all sang the Tipperary in one voice. The author felt that the song along with the tramp of millions of soldiers still rang in his ear.
The sight of the unknown warrior made the author think of the British army that went to war. There were young sons, who had come from distant villages leaving their widowed mother. There were students who had left the colleges with the spirit of adventure in their eyes and joined the army. The army consisted of clerks, shopkeepers and workers, who had abandoned their works and had taken service in the army.
Again the sight of the unknown warrior made the author think of the million farewell scenes. The soldiers left their beloved ones for the sake of the country. Husbands left their wives who were hanging about their necks in an agony of grief. Fathers left their children who were weeping for reasons they knew not. Sons left their parents who gave them farewell with grief that was beyond the control of tears. Those students, sons, fathers and husbands went to war to sacrifice their lives leaving others to enjoy the ignoble wealth and the prizes of war.
England sent the soldiers to the battle. They were sent to sacrifice not because they were the weakest of the group but because they were the best of the flock. They represented the youth of England. If they had not been sent to war, they would have become singers, poets and statesmen like Brooke, Asquith, Gladstone and Keeling. Every household sent its finest flower to war. Otherwise, they would have done greatest service to the nation and they would have won precious victories of peace. But they all went to sacrifice their lives at the monstrous altar of war.
Graves of Soldiers
British soldiers fought in different battle fields. Thousands of them were swallowed by the cannon fire. Many of them died at Suvla Bay, Vimy Ridge and Mesopotamia. Many of them died at Cyprus like autumn leaves. As there was no time to take them to England they were buried then and there and thrown into the seas. Their graves lay scattered all over Europe from Sweden to Zeebrugge. Those countries not only contained the soldiers but also the hearts of the beloved ones who mourned their death.
Symbol of Great Price
Presently his thoughts returned to the unknown warrior. Gardiner felt that the warriors returned back, representing all dead soldiers to take their place among the famous dead. He felt that Chathems, Drydens and Johnsons would receive in their midst. For they knew the warrior was more important than they. In him they would find the symbol of the great price placed on the nationâ€™s altar. In him the nation would pay respect to the youth of England that had perished.
Gardiner felt that every English man would be moved to tears at that touching scene. He desired that they should not stop with a spasm of easy and tearful emotion. For, the soldiers gave up their lives to make the world a better place for the living and for the future generation. He felt that the warrior would throw a silent challenge to the living if the world was worthy of his sacrifice. The author thought that if the people were honest they would not be able to give a satisfactory answer.