Every year I remember the Eleventh of April. This year I forgot – well I remembered late in the day – too late to blog about it.
It is the anniversary of the death of John Madder, in 1705. He was a real person, but not a real pirate, that was the excuse they gave to kill him.
I remember him because of his surname, which I used to share.
I remember him because of his tragic death, with its connections to the Union, or not, between England and Scotland.
And now I remember him as the person who started me writing. Read about that in a previous post. I could so easily have written my novel about him – perhaps, sometime, I will.
The reason I forgot to remember was because I was too busy remembering.
In another life, I am responsible for running a website remembering men who died in the First World War. We publish a biography of each man from our local war memorial on the centenary of his death (there are over four hundred). I don’t do it all myself, we have volunteers, although not as many as I’d like. But I am the coordinator. I read them through, checking for mistakes then publish them on the blog. Last weekend was the centenary of the Battle of Arras – the anniversary was in the news, mainly about the Canadians at Vimy Ridge. But from our town, in the centre of England, six men died on Sunday 9th April 1917, two more on Monday and another two yesterday. Those last two were in the same regiment, the Royal Warwickshire Regiment. I have been reading the war diaries – they are not named, just included in the anonymous list of casualties.
Total casualties for the period 9th to 21st Incl.
Killed: 2 Officers, 43 Other Ranks (includes 10 died of wounds since)
Wounded and missing: 1 Officer, 0 Other Ranks
Wounded: 5 Officers, 173 Other Ranks
Missing: 0 Officers, 33 Other Ranks
Missing believed wounded: 0 Officers, 1 Other Ranks.
Most casualties were from enemy shelling as they assembled before the attack.
So many men, so many stories. Perhaps I should be writing about that period, I have learned so much about it. Many writers, better than me, have done just that.
I started thinking about Byrhtnoth. What would he think about the four year battle that was the First World War? The idea would excite him – he loves to fight. But the reality would shock him. For him, war is man to man, fighting in the shield wall. Not sheltering in a trench from overhead bombardment. We tend to think that the Dark Ages (or Early Middle Ages, as they are now called.) was a violent time. If you read some authors it was all battles! But the battles were short, afterwards the survivors went home, harvested their crops, had feasts and told stories round the hearth.
Our job, as writers, particularly of Historical Fiction, is an act of remembrance. We remember the men and woman, famous or invisible. We bring them alive, tell their stories, so they will be remembered.
So I will not say that this week I have done no writing. I have been writing biographies, in my own act of remembrance.
If you do not know the man (or woman), how can you remember him?