I live in quite a small village. There are 400 houses, most of which have been built in the last 60 years – I should think fewer than 100 of them are older, although some may have been pulled down and replaced. The adult population of 720 has probably trebled in the last hundred years – more children were born, undoubtedly, than nowadays, but many of them did not survive to adulthood.
So, it hits me every year. In our church, the roll of honour, the list of those soldiers who died in the two world wars (no one from the village has died in the other wars that besmirch the world with such casually destructive regularity), is read out. And, in the 1914-1918 war, 25 men died. Roughly one tenth of the adults and, since that includes women and old men, this means a much higher proportion of young men. Most of that generation.
I wonder if we would be at war now if the elected leaders of our country had to lead the troops into battle nowadays. Or if President Bush’s daughters and Mr Blair’s sons and daughter were in the armed forces, on active service. It might have made them think twice.