Such is the delightful quality of man himself. He is a sentimentalist, not a scientist. He honors the dead—even when they were imbeciles. Gutless … witless … fighting today's pointless wars with yesterday's senseless tactics—nonetheless, the dead Tommies were human beings exactly like us. And it is the heart that remembers them; the brain is appalled.
So, although we have never killed anyone ourselves, we like to read the obituaries of those who have with keen interest and satisfaction. First, of course, we are pleased not to find ourselves listed among the day's casualties. Second, even if they baffle our minds—the old goners always leave behind a little trace of unwitting humor or unintended enlightenment for anyone who takes the trouble to pick it up.
Just read the London papers. Hardly a day goes by that some antique from the Great War or World War II doesn't finally bite the dust. Many of them, we find, had lived through the Blitz of London in 1940–1941 and had then gone on to fight in romantic places—Malaya, Katmandu, El Alamein—all the distant outposts of what was then the world's greatest power and its dominant empire. They came back home dazed and glad to be alive. Then, the homeland pinned medals on their chests and sent them out to take up jobs selling insurance or elaborating plans for milk distribution.
Compared to what they had been through, it must have been boring. Maybe that is why so many people retain a fond memory for the war years.
It is not ...