I’ve been to a couple of Second World War recreation events over the years, never a First World War one. I’ve no real knowledge of why the war of the 1940s should be recreated more than that of the 1910s – both had their horrors, be it Gallipoli, the trenches, the seige of St Petersburg or the concentration camps. Perhaps it’s the greater number of vehicles, which appeal to people with a mechanical bent. Perhaps it’s the fact that 1940s music is more accessible. It was a war with an active home front, where bombs fell on cities as well as the front line, so everybody played a part, and can play a part in the re-enactment.
Whatever the reason, WWII re-enactment started a long time ago, when veterans of the Second World War were still around. I find re-enactment events strange, but I do appreciate the fact that they make people think, and as parents and grandparents take youngsters along it could be the first time many children have really encountered the concept of war beyond the bright colours and loud bangs of a cartoon. It may not give them a very good idea of what happened, but they might want to find out more - something they’re unlikely to get taught in schools.
How long should such long-ago events be remembered? As long as it takes us to stop repeating it, to stop one government picking fights with another and dragging ordinary people behind them. We need to remember it, because it makes us look again at all the wars that are going on right now, that news fatigue may have made us varnish over in our minds. People have died, people are still dying, and we should never forget that.