Lest We Forget: On the role of Memorials in remembering our past

Even the most forward thinking leaders have understood that our present civilisation is built on the bones and heroics of those who have come before us and that the way we honour them will inform the way our generation will be remembered. So the tombs and memorials of our illustrious pasts aren’t just portals to understanding past events and ways to bring history alive, they’re also our ties to the past and demonstrations of what our society’s value.

Many of the most moving tombs and memorials remember the way we’ve suffered in conflicts. Many have even been built with the express wish never to allow us to forget past atrocities and to take heed before igniting wars. The Peace Park of Hiroshima is one of the most moving settings I have ever hovered against, though you feel at peace this is not a place where most people’s souls sit well within their bodies, and my visit is the most enduring memory of my time in Japan. Here we’re all forced to learn some terrible truths about human nature, but if I had have been the one swallowed up by this evil I would want to know that my story was being told down the generations.

On the other side of the same conflict are the equally peaceful and unsettling memorials at Sandakan and Pearl Harbour. The stories from Sandakan are of stoicism and mateship between the Commonwealth soldiers while Pearl Harbour commemorates heroism. These differences tell us a lot about the people who erected the memorials as well as about history and the way it’s being passed down the generations. The crouching, silent remains of Auschwitz offer us their own terrible Second World War reminders and warnings about humanity.

Oceans of white war graves at the Somme, Gallipoli and Ypres tell the equally horrific story of the First World War.

Some memorials are so ingrained in our vision of a place that we no longer consider their meaning on a visit, lest we forget the reason the Arc de Triomphe, and the Taj Mahal were constructed and let the stories of our history envelope us on a visit as well as their overwhelming architectural achievements.

More Poignant Memorials

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