War Hero honoured 91 years after death

I came across the following article in my local free paper.

War Hero honoured 91 years after death

It got me thinking.

Why did it take 91 years to put the name of the soldier on the memorial?

I imagine the answer involves a failure of army procedure. However, without a trip to the regiment’s archive in Chester it will remain a mystery.

However, there is a more important question:

Why now?

I suspect the connection to Iraq and the Cheshire regiment (now defunct) is critical.

The British public’s attitude to the current war in Iraq is complex and politically charged. It is the sensitive nature of the debate that has made it difficult for society to memorialise the sacrifice of the modern soldiers. For many the link between opposition to the war and the ability support the solders, irrespective of political standing, is indistinct. This result is an absence of a suitable system of public memorialisation. The lack of major conflict since the Second World War has left our society unused to publicly recognising the sacrifice of its soldiers. Though we openly commemorate Armistice Day, this has become a very general event; dedicated to ALL the soldiers who have been killed whilst fighting abroad. Yet in a way this is an escapist approach. It allows us to avoid addressing our deeper lack of unquestionable support for our soldiers, irrespective of personal political feelings.

I wonder if we are in fact suffering from a feeling of collective guilt, which makes open recognition of the deaths of solders in Iraq and Afghanistan difficult. Politically many people oppose these wars; an opposition I feel is often based on flimsy evidence and understanding. Therefore, when faced with the real consequences of these conflicts, we have no viable outlet for our collective grief.

I suspect that the addition of David Hunt’s name to the town’s memorial has much to be with a transposed reaction to the current conflict in Iraq.

Two questions remain.

Firstly, does the memorial in Ellesmere Port recognise any modern deaths?
Secondly, does the memorial for the Cheshire regiment in Chester cathedral include David Hunt’s name?

I will check and report back.

6 Responses to “War Hero honoured 91 years after death”

  1. Gavin Robinson Says:

    I don’t think the army or War Office were ever responsible for local memorials, so it would be a failure of the local authorities (or a failure of the family to notify them). Local memorials and rolls of honour don’t seem to be based on official records. It’s not unusual for them to have incorrect details of service or non-standard abbreviations.

    “Why now?” is an interesting question, but I’m not sure that the current situation in Iraq is necessarily the primary reason. It does add an extra layer of meaning to this case, and you’re right to point out the lack of public memorials for the dead of this and other recent conflicts. On the other hand, cases like this are not that unusual and can occur with men who died in any theatre. There are loads of examples on the Great War Forum, both for CWGC and local memorials.

    I think it all comes down to the fact that there’s still something unique about how the Great War is perceived in Britain, something that sets it apart from all other wars. It seems fairly clear that a lot of people still care very deeply about the Great War and it’s dead in their own right, regardless of current wars. That still leaves the question of why.

  2. breathinghistory Says:

    Gavin,
    You are, of course, correct. The addition of the name is nothing more that the fruition of a family’s quest for recognition.
    Yet I was using the example to illustrate a deeper belief.
    British society has no avenue for its public grief and memorialisation. Look at the bizarre incidents during Princess Diana’s funeral procession and also the small shrines you see on the roadside for victims of road accidents.
    I believe that since the bodies of many soldiers were not returned during the First World War, we have never learned an appropriate method of memorisation. My studies have suggested that awards such as the Victoria Cross go some way to allaying society’s collective guilt at their soldier’s sacrifice.
    I also believe that confused political views of the war in Iraq, have produced a dichotomy. In that, on one hand people wish to protest against the war, yet of the other they wish to support the soldiers.

  3. Gavin Robinson Says:

    That’s an interesting connection. I’d always thought of roadside shrines as something new and strange, but now you mention it they do have quite a bit in common with war memorials.

  4. breathinghistory Says:

    I had the pleasure of travelling up and down the M6 yesterday. On the northbound trip, somewhere around Stoke, I noticed that a memorial had been erect on the side of the carriage. It looked well tended with loads of flowers. This was the first time I had seen this on a motorway.
    The strange thing is that these memorials are private monuments to a single person. They are not the result of public consultation and societal recognition, important when you consider their location on public highways. They spring from a desire to memorialise when no other option is available.
    However, they do differ from war memorials in that they tend to be placed at the location of death. War memorials tend to be erected within the community of the dead soldier.

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