Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Thankful Villages and Thankful Years

Starin' over the sandbags,
Sick of the 'ole damn thing;
Firin' to keep meself awake,
'Earing the bullets sing.

Dreamin' 'ere by the sandbags
Of a day then war will cease,
When 'Ans and Fritz and Bill and me
Will clink our mugs in fraternity,
And the Brotherhood of Labour will be
The Brotherhood of Peace.

from A Song Of The Sandbags by Robert Service

In the 1930's Arthur Mee wrote his series of guides, The Kings England. The introductory volume, Enchanted Land introduced the term Thankful Village. Arthur identified 32 villages that had no war memorial to the First World War (or The Great War as it was then known) because every man sent to war returned home.

More recent research has led to the villages being reclassified as civil parishes, and the number increased to 53. In my part of the world only Hunstanworth in County Durham and Meldon in Northumbria are listed. Some argue that Meldon is slightly doubtful as one resident emigrated, and fought and died with the Australian army.

Of the 53, 14 are doubly thankful, having no dead from the Second World War. To put this in perspective, in France, Thierville is the only such place, having lost no-one in either world war, and no-one in the Franco Prussian war either.

So now we've considered thankful villages, can we have thankful years.

Obviously not during wars, but what of the years since. The latest figures available from from November 2014, and at that time there had been 7,145 deaths on operational service in what are termed medal earning theatres since the end of the Second World War.
Sadly there has been just one year with no loss of life, 1968. There were just two in 1961, and six in 2014.

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