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  • Writer's pictureMike Gould

The Sword and the Pen

On this weekend of reflection and memory for the fallen of all wars, it seems equally pertinent as a writer to call to mind not just those who fought or served in the various armed forces, but also those who risked - and often gave - their lives to report the facts of war.

I only caught the end of the very moving radio reading of Lindsey Hilsum's In Extremis: the life of war correspondent Marie Colvin which finished with the moment when the Syrian air-force's strike killed her instantly as she tried to report the siege of Homs in 2012.

But the bravery with which she and photographer Rémi Ochlik (who was also killed) sought to tell the truth about that particular dreadful episode is made more poignant by the almost certain knowledge that they were deliberately targeted by the Syrian regime.

Journalism is an increasingly dangerous occupation in many states, and even in the superficially ridiculous situation when a US President bars a respected reporter for asking awkward questions, we see the shades of the aggression which in its ultimate form leads to the sort of executive action that silenced Marie and Remi.

As writers,we may sometimes be brave in wielding the pen to bare our souls, but few of us bare our necks to the real sword of criticism. My photo of Colleville and the American cemetery near Omaha Beach does not help me recall whether any of the crosses pictured represented those who used a pen rather than a rifle, but in a sense it doesn't matter, and in any case there were many who did both - Wilfred Owen for one.

Both the words and the deeds resonate down through history.

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