By Andy Owen: For More Info, Go Here…
When a person goes missing, in war or in ordinary life, their story is cut off mid-sentence. A death can be easier to bear.
When I asked if the mission would have gone ahead if they’d known that Lance Corporal Ford was already dead, Rigg answered ‘Yes.’ Would he have wanted others to risk their lives to recover his body if it had been him? He answered ‘No.’ Rigg paused to consider the potential contradiction, and added that in this hypothetical situation it would not be about him. There would be more at stake. For him, the fact that the British military recover their own, alive or dead, is integral to what makes it the organisation it is. But why should accounting for our missing be so important that it is worth risking more lives for? This is a question that, as a former soldier myself, I find puzzling but important.
The US psychologist Pauline Boss, who started working with the wives of missing US airmen in the 1970s, writes that ‘even sure knowledge of death is more welcome than a continuation of doubt’, and describes incomplete or uncertain loss as ‘ambiguous loss’.
People aren’t meant to just disappear. Disappearance can expose an existential fear in those left behind – what could make you question your self-esteem more than the knowledge that you could just go missing without a trace? This is why some states and armed groups have deliberately ‘disappeared’ those seen as their greatest threat: during the Troubles in Northern Ireland, for example, supposed informers on the paramilitary organisation the IRA were at risk of vanishing. As a character in Jez Butterworth’s play The Ferryman (2017) points out, denying information or giving false information can add to the pain of loss, and is a particularly cruel way to treat the living: