The very last combat veteran of the First World War, Claude “Chuckles” Choules of the Royal Navy, died in an Australian nursing home last year, aged 110. The last non-combat veteran, Florence Green, an RAF steward, died this February in King’s Lynn, also aged 110.
So the First World War has almost entirely deserted living memory. And yet its memory stays strong – and grows ever stronger – among those born decades after it ended. More than 300,000 people still visit the battlefields in northern France every year. First World War dramas come thick and fast: Parade’s End, Downton Abbey, that revered, much-repeated last scene in Blackadder.
Literature, too, goes back and back to the trenches. Pat Barker has just published Toby’s Room, a First World War novel, 21 years after Regeneration, the first book in her war trilogy. Yesterday, David Cameron talked of how Michael Morpurgo’s War Horse and the novels of Sebastian Faulks have kept the First World War vivid for new generations….