By Michael Aidin. Published by Syncline Press, £8.99
Only a person of stone would be unmoved at the thousands of graves in any of the war cemeteries around the world, with their perfectly neat, teeth-like tombstones marking the last resting places of the war dead.
Michael Aidin’s book, as he says at the end of Memories of Memorials, is part memoir and part celebration of them in all their artistic forms – which include poetry, music, art and even scholarship endowments – but it’s also part history book, giving plenty of interesting detail about the wars the memorials commemorate.
Aidin, who lives in Pulborough, has certainly had to travel to produce this work, and it’s certainly been a long trip, with his interest in the theme having its roots in childhood. (Aidin was born in 1933.)
St Petersburg, Turkey, Romania, Ireland, Pakistan and India are all on the itinerary, as well as the UK, of course.
When he was at college his fascination – and perhaps cynicism – was fed by the 1832 book On War by Carl von Clausewitz, which overwhelmed Aidin, he says, for the “analytical calculations of the infliction of casualties to obtain a political end”.
In his travels he has discovered that memorials express the differences in attitudes to war among nations: in Russia, for example, there are no memorials to World War 1, which “the Bolshevik Revolutionaries felt was an imperialist conflict best forgotten”.
The 1950-1953 Korean War was extremely unpopular among Americans, and although 54,000 soldiers were killed there are few memorials to the conflict in the US – although one that was erected in 1995, in Washington, DC, is perhaps one of the most striking, comprising a group of 19 soldier statues on patrol in an 8,900m2 arena.
In France, almost every village has a monument to the men of the district who died.
Anti-war memorials are almost unknown in the English-speaking world, Aidin says, and the defeated are rarely inspired to build them either.