Today is Veteran's Day in the US, yesterday was probably Memorial Sunday in the UK. World War II still has its effects in UK culture. You tend to eat two or more vegetables with every main meal, because your parents grew up with food rationing. You study the two World Wars at school in history class. You study them again in English Literature, with poets like Siegfried Sassoon, Wilfred Owen, and Rupert Brooke. You find out that Landguard Point, where you used to walk the dog every Saturday, was landscaped as a training ground for WWII tanks, with steep hills and ditches. You see the memorials in every town and village recording who died in which war. You hear which family members were involved in WWII and what they did.
Dulce et Decorum Est
by Wilfred Owen
Bent double, like old beggars under sacks,
Knock-kneed, coughing like hags, we cursed through sludge,
Till on the haunting flares we turned our backs
And towards our distant rest began to trudge.
Men marched asleep. Many had lost their boots
But limped on, blood shod. All went lame; all blind;
Drunk with fatigue; deaf even to the hoots
Of gas shells dropping softly behind.
Gas! GAS! Quick, boys!- An ecstasy of fumbling,
Fitting the clumsy helmets just in time;
But someone still was yelling out and stumbling,
And flound'ring like a man in fire or lime...
Dim, through the misty panes and thick green light,
As under a green sea, I saw him drowning.
In all my dreams, before my helpless sight,
He plunges at me, guttering, choking, drowning.
If in some smothering dreams you too could pace
Behind the wagon that we flung him in,
And watch the white eyes writhing in his face,
His hanging face, like a devil's sick of sin;
If you could hear, at every jolt, the blood
Come gargling from the froth-corrupted lungs,
Obscene as cancer, bitter as the cud
Of vile, incurable sores on innocent tongues, -
My friend, you would not tell with such high zest
To children ardent for some desperate glory,
The old Lie: Dulce et decorum est
Pro patria mori.
"Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori" is Latin for "It is sweet and honourable to die for one's country." The phrase comes from Quintus Horatius Flaccus (Horace), a Roman poet who lived in 658 B.C.
Owen was a company commander in WWI. He was killed in France on November 4, 1918, one week before the armistice.