The 100-year anniversary of the start of the first world war is currently being remembered in Australia with ceremonies on the south coast of Western Australia. Presumably it is all over now bar packing up, flushing the sewer system, and writing up the charges for the Albany magistrates Court later in the week. There are bound to have been some troubles – the RSL and the publicans had a hand in it – but nothing like those that the POF have endured.
The POF – that’s Poor Old French – have shared the fate of the Poor Old Belgians and Poor Old Poles for the better part of the last 1500 years as the hosts for party wars. It doesn’t matter who the parties were – they all seem to have ended up in France, Belgium, or Poland when the time came to break the furniture. That’s the curse of having flat arable land that is easy to march over. The Swiss have such a miserable topography that no-one really wants it.
POF has, of course, instigated it’s fair share of trouble – Pick a Louis and you can find a fight. The Revolution and Napoleon come readily to mind when you think of colourful bloodshed – even later Napoleons got into the act, at home and abroad. Then the fun of 1914-45.
It makes you wonder whether they are also celebrating this anniversary as much as the British and the Australians. If your local war memorial is built of bones – see what I mean by Googling up Verdun – and if some of those bones were actually inside your Grandfather…it is a world more serious than camping out with the cadets overnight or purchasing a repro uniform from the internet. And if you are farmer who occasionally ploughs up munitions and skeletons…Mon Dieu.
As annoying as some Frenchmen might be when they get in front of a microphone – and we are thinking of Charles de Gaulle – they at least have a right to be sober and serious about the anniversary. And I suspect that they would have a much better understanding of the whole four-year business than we do out here. I hope that they get a chance to tell their truth during the coming years.