The Lochnagar Crater is an awesome sight. I first saw it in the early 1970s and even today, hundreds of visits later, it never ceases to take my breath away.
I believe Lochnagar plays a unique role for all those who are drawn to visit the battlefields of the Great War. People who stand on the lip for the first time, including the thousands of young people, instinctively understand the fearsome power and destruction of modern warfare and, in reading the many evocative memoirs of the soldiers themselves, the terror and vulnerability of those who experienced it.
And never forgetting those who suffered bravely at home – the wives, mothers and families who daily dreaded the telegram.
Standing at Lochnagar, often with other visitors, one shares a unique feeling of compassion and connection with those who fought and fell there. There is a special spirit of fellowship that unites all who visit – and all who seek solace at the unimaginable suffering, the sacrifice, and some say the futility of that conflict.
I believe that that war especially was a stain on mankind and in some small way, Lochnagar, whilst remaining a vast, open wound on the battlefield, symbolises the eternal pain, loss and sorrow of millions of grieving people throughout Europe. A lost generation of good, gifted and innovative young men whose loss we still feel today.
I urge you to come and stand at Lochnagar and, in doing so, commemorate those who fell there. But to do so, not simply by remembering them, but by seeking to make the world that they were so cruelly denied a much more peaceful, forgiving and loving place. In their memory and in their honour.
That is the true and on-going legacy of Lochnagar. And possibly, if enough of us do that today and in the years to come, its creation may not have been entirely in vain.
I am forever grateful for the continued understanding, kindness and hospitality of our many French friends. We feel privileged to work closely with the ever-helpful local Mayor and Commune and have established a mutually supportive relationship with our good friends at the Sous-préfècture in Péronne.
Those who come to Lochnagar pause to remember those who fell. Yet I believe there is no better way to honour them than to return home and vow to make the world they were so cruelly denied a better, kinder and more peaceful place. In their name.