Today is Veteran’s Day in the United States, but in the UK it’s Remembrance Day. In 1918, the armistice agreement was signed officially ending the First World War or the Great War (WWI to us in the US). The Treaty of Versailles, signed six months later in 1919, officially hammered the peace agreement, and essentially set up the next world war.In the UK and much of the Commonwealth, there isn’t a separate Memorial Day. They honor every veteran and fallen soldier on this day and on the Sunday following Nov. 11.
The Kinks’s “Village Green Preservation Society” always reminds me of Remembrance Day because of the lyrics “God save the George Cross and all those who are awarded them.” The George Cross wasn’t instituted until 1940, but for some reason it always makes me think of the First World War and not the Second. It’s probably because I’m a Victorianist, and the Great War is such a radical break in the historical and literary timeline. I’m also percolating a class on women writers of the inter-war years; I read Winifred Holtby’s South Riding this summer, and I’m currently reading Vera Brittain’s Testament of Youth. Partly I’m interested just because the writing is so good, but I’m also reworking the end of the dissertation to move into the early 1900s. All this to say that my interest lies earlier in the period, so it’s not surprising that my mind makes connections that aren’t really there.
I actually was first introduced to this song via the NPR show Thistle and Shamrock, and it was the above cover by Kate Rusby that I heard not the original Kinks song. I’m not normally this overtly patriotic, but my cousin just made his way home last night; he’s been deployed on a ship in Bahrain for the last couple of months.