A Day to Reflect
Tomorrow is a very special day, it’s the day when we mark the hundredth year since the end of one of the bloodiest conflicts in history, and in many ways, we reflect the creation of the world we live in today.
At eleven AM on the eleventh day of the eleventh month of the year nineteen eighteen the guns that had raged across the globe fell silent and everyone alive at the time said a prayer.
They were praying and saying “thank you” for being brought through the biggest and most bloody war that the planet had seen up to that time and saying a prayer in the hope that it would never happen again.
Remembrance day (as it’s called in Britain) is the day when we remember all those who gave the ultimate sacrifice so that we can enjoy the things we enjoy today.
World war one was the biggest war anyone had ever experienced at the time. The nations who fought the war were from all over the globe, even Japan and China took part in the war in some shape or form, and yes they fought with the Allies.
But the brunt of the fighting was done in Europe, and in particular, it was fought in Eastern France and Belgium, with eighty million losing their lives.
But all that changed on the eleventh of November 1918 at eleven AM.
That was when an exhausted Germany who never wanted the war in the first place finally persuaded her allies (Austria and Hungary) that they could not win the war, and it was time to take literally any deal that the French, British and Americans were willing to offer, literally ‘peace at any price’ and the price was to be steep!
Remembering the Past
Remembrance Sunday is the nearest Sunday to November the 11th. In Britain, it’s the time when we remember all those who paid for the freedom we enjoy today, the time when we take a moment to remember what it really meant for those who gave their all.
Every year at 11 o’clock the sirens sound and the whole country would observe a minute’s silence.
It doesn’t matter what you were doing at the time, everything stops and a minute of silence happens.
The ‘Old soldiers, Sailors and Airmen are already down at the local war memorial not just observing the minute, but also holding a service to remember fallen comrades, those we weren’t fortunate enough to make it home.
Initially, it was the fallen from the First world war who were remembered, the tradition was started in 1919. But over the years, and as we took part in more and more wars the lists grew. Now it’s for anyone who was killed in action, and with the conflicts going on throughout the globe, every year more names get added.
Symbol of Remembrance
Take a look at the first picture on this hub. That’s the symbol of remembrance we use. The simple Poppy
Well, it’s said that at the height of the fighting during the dark days of trench warfare, when the soldiers were brave enough (or dumb enough as it could get you killed) to look out into ‘No man’s land’ (Literally the land between the Allied and German trenches) all that would grow there was the Poppy, a simple flower, that’s what the soldiers saw, and it’s what was forever linked to the fighting by the poem ‘In Flanders Fields’
It’s a simple flower, but its one I wore with pride over the last few days.
At the memorial places the ‘Old Soldiers’ (forgive me, but I’m including both Sailors and Airmen in that phrase start their ‘parade’ at around 9.30 as they want to culminate with the minutes’ silence at eleven.
Every branch of the services, as well as the medical people, the Fire brigades and Police, are all represented, and all lay their tributes at the foot of the memorials, but then for the old soldiers, I think the more important part comes:
In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.
We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.
Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies
— Lt Col John McCrae
What They Can’t Tell.
I often wondered why my Grandfathers would never talk about their experiences during the wars they fought in (I had one fought and was wounded in ww1 and one who fought and was wounded in ww2) but now I think I know what why that was.
I think they realised that no one who wasn’t with them, right there on the Battlefield can truly understand what it was like for them, the excitement yet fear as they prepared to ‘go over the top’ knowing that a lot of them weren’t coming home again.
It wasn’t, isn’t something you can explain without seeming to insult your family, saying “You don’t understand” but the truth is, unless you’ve been there, you won’t!
After the service, they retreat back to the ‘British Legion’ as it’s called, the place where the Veterans hang out, and there, they can talk with men and women who’ve been where they were, who’ve seen the kind of things they saw,and to some degree have dealt with the guilt of feeling “Why did I make it, and so many didn’t?”
But we’re not done remembering:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning,
We will remember them
— ‘Ode to Remembrance’ from the poem ‘The fallen’ by Laurence Binyon
Festival of Remembrance
The final part of the remembering takes place at the Royal Albert Hall that evening where there’s a live performance culminating in the massed bands of the Armed forces and one final act that always drew a tear from me, even as a kid takes place.
As the last tune is played one million poppies are released from the top of the stands, they represent each of the one million British soldiers who lost their lives in the first world war.
We Shall Remember them.
A Little Known Fact
Most of us attribute the red Poppy with Remembrance Day, but I found out when I was researching this article that there are actually four colours of poppy that can be worn. They are as follows.
- Red. This is the traditional one. The main one we see is red with a Green stem, and in Britain, there would also be a green leaf. The Red poppy is a symbol of Remembrance, but it’s also a symbol of hope!
- White. The White Poppy symbolizes not the soldiers who died, but those who died in the conflict while working towards peace, the BBC says while they were emphasising a commitment to a lasting peace.
- Purple. This one is especially for those who want to remember the sacrifice that animals made during the conflict. Dogs that searched the burned-out buildings after an air raid, Pigeons that carried messages over the trenches, Horses and pulled the gun carriages for the artillery are just a few to think of.
- Black. This one remembers those from the African and Caribbean communities who played a part in the conflict.
Take a Moment
Tomorrow is a special day, its one hundred years since the end of the ‘war to end all wars’ so let’s take a moment to remember the price those men and women paid, and let us remember the price that men and women from all our nations have paid since.
But I also think that one thing we should do is what General George Patton said.
He said, “It’s wrong to be sad that these men died, instead, we should thank God that they lived”
So, while remembering their sacrifice, don’t forget to say a prayer of thanks that such men and women were there when we needed them.