The answer is too bleak to give here. 1914-18 was supposed to be "The War to end all war," and we can't now put ourselves back into the frame of mind that could possibly believe that to be the case. So fast forward thirty years.
A week ago I was in Normandy, as a guest of the airline Flybe and the Normandy Tourist board. Two months ago President Obama and Queen Elizabeth also landed at the tiny airport at Caen, to join other dignitaries arriving to celebrate the 70th anniversary of D-Day, or as it is known in France, "Jour-J."
|Caen airport where President Obama and I both landed|
The museum was opened in 1988 and is built on top of the bunker where General Richter directed German operations. As you enter the permanent collection, the first thing you see is the statistic that 10 million people died in the First World War, with 21 million wounded or unaccounted for.
It takes you through the twenty-one years between one war ending and the next beginning, putting most of the blame firmly on the Treaty of Versailles.
I hadn't realised how long the "Battle of Normandy" lasted. All the books say 100 days and that takes you to almost mid-September if you reckon it from D-Day on 6th June 1944. But many commentators take it only to 25th August, when Paris was liberated by the Allies. I also hadn't realised how much destruction the bombing caused: 73% of Caen, for instance.
And the average age of the Allied combatants was only 24. Only 25% of the troops in Normandy on the German side were actually Germans by 1944, which clearly must have had some effect on morale.
The Allies pressed forward to take Caen as soon as they had landed on the Normandy beaches but were not completely successful until 19th July.
The first death in Operation Overlord was of Lieutenant Den Brotheridge, whose glider landed near the bridge over the Caen Canal at 6 minutes after midnight on 6th June. He led his Platoon over the bridge straight into German machine-gun fire and never recovered from his wounds.
But each death carried a story like Lieutenant Brotheridge's; each person had a family, a past and a future that was snatched away. Just as each person in Gaza, Israel, Syria, Libya, Nigeria, Sudan and every other country at war has a history without a future, unless we remember them.
These ceramic poppies are planted outside the Museum in Bayeux that houses a "tapestry" portraying a war even further off than the one we commemorate this year - nearly ten times further in the past (You can read about it in Adèle Geras' post on 7th August). They mirror the ones flooding the moat of the Tower of London at the moment.
Each tiny act of Remembrance, whether it is lighting a candle, wearing a poppy (white as well as red), looking at an old photograph or reading a diary or memoir is a small step away from war and towards peace. It is not enough - but it is a start.
(Mary Hoffman was the guest of Flybe and the Normandy Tourist Board).