Neil Bartlett and Kate Pullinger have set up a grand venture to commemorate WW1. For them ‘it is important to move away from cenotaphs, poppies, and the imagery we associate with war memorials’.

We can all contribute: ‘If you could say what you want to say about that war, with all we’ve learned since 1914, with all your own experience of life and death to hand, what would you say? If you were now able to write to the unknown soldier, a man who served and was killed during World War One, what would you write?’

If you’d like to take part, you can do so now. All contributions will be published on their website from 28 June 2014. To read more about this project, click here.

‘Five foot ten of a beautiful young Englishman under French soil. Never a joke, never a look, never a word more to add to my store of memories. The book is shut up forever and as the years pass I shall remember less and less, till he becomes a vague personality; a stereotyped photograph.’

Captain Noman Austin Taylor © Sarah Vernon

Captain Noman Austin Taylor © Sarah Vernon

This is what I shall be submitting. It is an imagined letter but based on my family.

Darling One,

Do you remember when I said that I would never forgive you if you went across the sea without telling me? I’m sorry now that I said that. I realise it was not what you wanted to hear, that the last thing you needed was to feel pressure to do what your family wanted instead of the freedom to do what was best for you. Please forgive me, my dearest brother.

I miss you so. I miss your cheeky, lopsided smile that used to steal across your face when you were joshing me about something I’d said. Or when Dodo pulled you to her to give you a bear hug, while Barbara looked on impatiently because she wanted us to continue our game of Whist. Do you remember?

With Mother gone, you were almost like a son to me and I was so proud when you joined up to defend our country. At the same time I was fretful beyond imagining. I knew you could take care of yourself, no matter that you were so young, but I know now that all the sense or strength in the world is not enough to protect one from death. I know now that war is senseless, that it can never achieve anything except destruction.

You would have loved the man I married but, of course, you know him now. I was the only one of us three to marry. Dodo looked after Papa until he joined you. All gone now. Except for me.

I did not write any more novels after The Flapper. I should have done. Perhaps it would have helped me to have taken up my pen again after my beloved Chan was struck down in 1940. Perhaps not.

I’m old now. I have always found myself unable to talk of you to my children or grandchildren. They have only photographs by which to know their uncle.

I will join you soon and all of us will be together again. I long for the day.

Ever yours,

Joyce

Take care and keep laughing!

Sarah

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