I’ve been waiting for this for a while: the last WWI veteran just died. She was apparently a waitress with the Royal Air Force (the last combat veteran died last May; he was also British. Since the US didn’t even enter the war until the end, statistically speaking, you can’t expect its veterans to have been among the last surviving).
Why have I been waiting? Because I have long been of the opinion that WWI is completely remote from the present time and largely forgotten. It has almost no cultural memes: high school students forget about Archduke Ferdinand, dogfighters were last seen in Peanuts (whose author died years ago), “shell shocked” is un-PC and therefore banned in favor of PTSD, and I’m looking forward to the creative misinterpretations that will be surrounding “entrenched” now that no one knows what a trench was. There is still “no-man’s land”, I guess. And the Maginot line (or is that just the Times crossword puzzle?).
More seriously: every now and then I would hear something about one of the last few survivors of WWI. They would be trotted out as a sort of reassurance that we are in touch with our heritage (or something like that) or have not forgotten the sacrifices of our ancestors. Well, they’re dead now, we’re out of touch, and we’ve forgotten.
I doubt very much that anyone has any idea what the world was like then, what kind of psychology must have been common in order for the war to have come about and been carried out as it was. How people lived, and what changed later.
For that matter, no one can imagine what it was like after the war; I believe that everything before the 50s is purely incomprehensible to people today. I can only wonder what that waitress, Florence Green, was thinking when she said in the article, “It seems like such a long time ago now”.