Although 100 years have passed, the First World War still lives with us.
We see physical reminders of it everywhere. Every November we have Remembrance Sunday and a minute’s silence at 11am, a lasting reminder of the ‘War to End All Wars’. The poppy, a flower which grew all over the battlefields of France, is now a symbol of remembrance.
Almost every city, town and village has a First World War memorial. There are 32 such civic memorials across North Lanarkshire, from the bustling towns of Airdrie and Motherwell to the ‘lost’ village of Bothwellhaugh.
Many churches, schools, workplaces and societies also commissioned private memorials to members of their community. Taking these into account, there must be close to at least 100 First World War memorials from North Lanarkshire. This doesn’t include those we don’t know about or that have gone missing over the years.
These did not appear from nowhere. The funding for them was raised almost entirely by donations, big and small, from tens of thousands of local people. This is a testament to the huge emotional connection that society felt with the sacrifices and sufferings of the First World War.
For many, letters and photographs from loved ones on military service became treasured possessions. In the event a loved one was killed, these letters and other personal belongs would take on even more meaning for grieving relatives, and are often still kept within families to this day. These items of personal remembrance are poignant reminders of the loss and suffering experienced by so many families in the First World War.
Many of the items relating to the War that can be found in museum collections all over the country are examples of these personal tokens of remembrance, kept by families to remind them of their loved one. Through these objects and letters we get some insight into the experiences of those involved, and of the hardships that war can bring.