This certificate was given to my uncle Ern (an older brother of my paternal grandfather) after World War 1. Uncle Ern was gassed in the war and never regained his health.
The saddest thing is that if Uncle Ern had been coming home to the wife and child in the picture (he was unmarried at the time), the boy in arms would almost certainly have been drafted to fight in the war that followed 20 years later.
I was privileged to be at a breakfast meeting in Brussels addressed by the President of Ireland at the time, Mary McAleese. At it she described the European Union as ‘the greatest conspiracy for good in history’. This continues to resonate with me – since the European Coal & Steel Community (forerunner of today’s EU) was created in 1951, we have had no war in Western Europe. Long may it remain so. So though I’m deeply grateful to my forebears for their sacrifice in protecting us from aggression, I’m yet more grateful to the politicians who, since 1951, have made it more and more difficult to fight a war in Europe. With Balkan nations queueing up to join the EU, perhaps we can finish with war in Europe for the foreseeable future.
And finally, in what seems to me like a bad joke, you may notice that the certificate was published by SPCK – The Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge. I guess things were different then.