The war ended last week on “Downton Abbey.” Like many of you, I was questioned about the war with friends mostly asking, “Is that what the trenches were really like?”
Yes, sometimes they looked like this:
Waiting to go over the top.
But sometimes they looked like this:
British trench in the snow.
Up to their knees in water.
Rats, lice, decomposing remains — we can argue that this was PBS and not HBO, and the story mostly took place on the homefront. But here’s what they left out of the story on homefront:
One night during the time my brother was serving in Vietnam, my parents gave a dinner party. The guests had all arrived, everyone was chatting, and then the doorbell rang. My father says he could not bring himself to touch the doorknob. He is not a fanciful man, yet he says he felt so strongly that there was death on the other side, that if he opened the door, he would see a man in uniform come to tell him that his oldest boy had been killed.
British families lived with that sickening dread for 4-1/2 years. Every knock at the door, every time the phone rang, a telegram — some women never opened The Telegram. Families found them later tucked behind His Picture on the mantel.
The terrible fear, and the terrible cost. That’s what “Downtown Abbey” was missing.