You may have heard that France's last WWI veteran recently died at the age of 110. He received a state funeral here in Paris, and, at his request, the event honored his fellow veterans as well. The historical significance of his death is enormous; truly the passing of a generation.
I was reminded of this fact when, among all the royal pomp and circumstance, I found a simple engraving at Chenonceau dedicated to the memory of WWI. Incredibly, the castle's long, river-spanning hallway was used as a temporary hospital where, according to the plaque, 2,254 injured soldiers were treated from 1914-1918. It was a simple reminder that this war touched everyone and was fought in every corner of the country. Evidence of the conflict was truly everywhere. Even this 16th century castle was not left untouched by the gruesome and tragic events of the time.
After talking to a friend who was planning a trip to see WWI battlefields, I remarked that WWI doesn't get talked about with the same frequency that WWII does. Maybe it's that WWII is closer in our collective memories, or maybe, as he suggested, the larger scope of WWII makes it more interesting. Whatever the reasons, for this past week at least, here in France, The Great War was back in our thoughts.