Thursday, 11 November 2010

Lest We Forget

November 11th is a special day, for it is Armistace Day, the day of remembrance. It is when we stop whatever we are doing at 11am and stand in silence to remember those who have fought wars for our freedom.

The day was officially commissioned by King George V in 1919, and has been observed every year since.

I don't come from a military family or anything but Armistice Day means a lot to me. My fathers great uncles were killed in the First World War. They were only young men, who went to war in the belief that they were making a difference for their country. They served in the Cameron Highlanders.  I wear my poppy with pride for these men who died, and my great grandfather, and my other great uncles who came back from the war.

John Peacock died on the 26th May 1916, and is buried at Loos Cemetery.  His brother Joseph Peacock died on the 16th July 1916, and it is unknown where his body is, so his name is etched on the Theipval Memorial. 

My dad took the photo below, and you can see Joseph Peacock's name on the memorial (between Paterson and Pearson).

One name in a wall of thousands. 

Really makes you think. These people went voluntarily, in the belief that "it would be over by Christmas".  We've never had a major world war in my lifetime, not one that has affected me directly anyway, and I dread to imagine there ever being one.  I do not think that there would be as many civilians willing to go to war, as there was in the First and Second World Wars.  They were unaware of the horrors that waited for them over there. Such awful loss of life.

My dad is very interested in the 1st World War, and has visited the battlegrounds, war sites, and memorials in France many times.  It's my dad's influence that has sparked my interest in the First World War, and the poetry, human interest and such surrounding it.  He went over to France 2 years ago, for the 90th anniversary of the end of the war, and he got some amazing photos. 

One of my favourite First World War poems comes from Laurence Binyon, (1869-1943)who worked as a curator for the British Museum.  He was too old to fight in the First World War, so he joined the Red Cross as a medical orderly and served with them at the Western Front.  Part of his poem "For the Fallen" is read at every cenotaph on Armistice Day.

For The Fallen

With proud thanksgiving, a mother for her children,
England mourns for her dead across the sea.
Flesh of her flesh they were, spirit of her spirit,
Fallen in the cause of the free.
Solemn the drums thrill; Death august and royal
Sings sorrow up into immortal spheres,
There is music in the midst of desolation
And a glory that shines upon our tears.
They went with songs to the battle, they were young,
Straight of limb, true of eye, steady and aglow.
They were staunch to the end against odds uncounted;
They fell with their faces to the foe.

They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.

At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.

They mingle not with their laughing comrades again;
They sit no more at familiar tables of home;
They have no lot in our labour of the day-time;
They sleep beyond England's foam.
But where our desires are and our hopes profound,
Felt as a well-spring that is hidden from sight,
To the innermost heart of their own land they are known
As the stars are known to the Night;
As the stars that shall be bright when we are dust,
Moving in marches upon the heavenly plain;
As the stars that are starry in the time of our darkness,
To the end, to the end, they remain.

Lest We Forget

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