Going back through what I’ve written, I think I’ve got a lot of likely dead ends and false memories.
First of all, while it’s possible I may have seen a Nieuport biplane at some point, it’s very unlikely. I can’t find a French aerodrome near enough to Armentieres that I might have been at, and even if there was, how likely would a lowly Tommy have been to be allowed a gander at the rotary engine with its cowl off? It seems highly unlikely though technically possible.
Same goes for a lot of my memories of the planes. Admittedly, aviation was the part of WWI I had the most interest in during this life, so if I’m unconsciously confabulating about anything I’m sure at least one of my memories of the planes is complete bunk.
Second, the recent one about shelling Ypres… damn, how blind could I be? I watch a documentary about the very same thing and what do you know, I suddenly have a memory? Heh, the skeptics are having a good laugh, I’m sure, but I’m just irritated that I didn’t vet that one a little better. Maybe the conversation did happen, and I’m very sure that I’d at least tried to lose my Somerset accent before the war, but my timing with the exact subject of the conversation is very suspect and I’ll be the first to say so.
I also wrote that I remembered the town hall at Armentieres (during my entry about a virtual jaunt from Armentieres to Ypres), but that’s not possible since the current town hall was apparently built after the war. While I do have some memories of postwar construction (most notably the cemetery), all of that seems to be concentrated in Houplines, not in Armentieres. Easy explanation: I saw an old building and it seemed vaguely familiar so I assumed I’d seen it before.
As for everything else… hard to say. I often feel like I’m holding memories that are reconstructed from tiny fragments with a lot of imagination injected into the numerous gaps. I had much more convincing matches for confirmed memories before I started doing all this research.
And yet, one thing the research hasn’t done- the one thing I can never prove because it’s terribly subjective- is that it didn’t make it more real to me; only the memories I’ve had could do that.
I’d seen the odd documentary or read the odd article about the war before I remembered anything (and who hasn’t?) but it never really stood out as being anything more than a distant event from long ago until I felt the fear of a man about to die in the trenches. Suddenly, I notice things about films and reenactments that I didn’t before, small things like the soil being just a bit too sandy and rocky to be Flanders, or the lads’ uniforms being just a little too clean.
The only other era I can focus my mind’s eye on and see first-person so clearly is the 1990s, and even from the 90s I’m not always sure what’s a real memory and what’s just a suggestion or an invention. The difference is, I have a birth certificate and living witnesses to prove I was there in the 90s.
As far as I’m concerned, 1995 and 1915 are equally real to me, even if the memories are at times equally unreal or even demonstrably false. Difference is, I need to be more vigilant about vetting memories from 1915 because I’m already making an extraordinary claim by saying I remember it at all.