Faith Focus: Remembering, street by street
PUBLISHED: 10:00 12 November 2020
One of the things that struck me when I first came to St Albans was seeing the memorials in the streets around the Cathedral commemorating the names of the men from those streets who died in the First World War. As far as I know they are unique to this city.
I think they are much more moving than big memorials, because they bring home how people in every small locality were affected. The real grief of war isn’t in the statistics, but in the personal story of each of the dead and of the bereaved.
They were mostly very young men – many of them boys, really – like Freddie Fellows from Fishpool Street, who joined up at the age of 16, and died at Ypres one year later.
Or Thomas Bourne from Albert St who was a joiner in Massey’s timber merchants on High St. His wife got the telegram saying he’d been killed just two hours after she had given birth to twin boys, their first children, whom Tom would never get to see.
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On most of the street memorials there is a small metal crucifix above the list of names. Again, that seems to me much more powerful than big words or a pompous monument. It is a reminder that whoever they were, in the end each of those young men resembled Christ in giving up his life for others.
They did the supremely unselfish thing, giving themselves. ‘Greater love hath no man than this, than that he lay down his life for his friends’ said Jesus; and, however mixed or different their situations, that’s exactly what they all did.
We should treasure those little memorials in our streets, because they remind us how wonderful – as well as terrible – human beings can be.
Let them inspire us to live less selfish and more principled lives, and build a society that is more worthy of their sacrifice.
Rest eternal grant them, Lord; and let light perpetual shine upon them.
Dr Jeffrey John is the Dean of St Albans.
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