Some images created in Book Brush using Pixabay photos. Others are taken from the Chandler’s Ford Today archives.
Today is Armistice Day. The 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month – a poignant moment in history.
This year’s events will be familiar and as moving as ever. I think this year they will seem more so I suspect to many of us given one familiar figure will no longer be laying a wreath at The Cenotaph.
Many of us will be recalling the late Queen’s decades of service. She was a constant presence at the Armistice Day memorial events. The last time we had a king, he was, of course, a war time one, someone who had fought (at the Battle of Jutland in World War One) and King George VI’s most famous broadcast was in 1939. It still resonates now.
Remembrance – an Act of Will
Remembering is an act of will and a phenomenally important one. Why?
- To try and learn from our history and to not repeat mistakes, especially those which led to war. (This is even more pertinent given the current situation in The Ukraine).
- To ensure those who gave up their lives and their freedoms so we do not have to do so are remembered with heartfelt gratitude.
- To recall those from our own families who were caught up in war, especially World War Two. My maternal grandfather worked in the Woolwich Arsenal in London during the war years (exempted from national service and went into a reserved occupation here. Woolwich Arsenal, as you can imagine, was bombed a lot). My paternal grandfather did fight in the war, was invalided out, and went on to become an ARP warden in London’s East End. Not the easiest of tasks and there were grim moments. Many of them. Stories like theirs should not be forgotten.
- I believe remembering means you do have to think of others outside of your own time and experience and that in turn can encourage empathy, something the world could always do with more of I think. I recall the women who gave up their fathers, husbands, sons etc so I did not have to give up mine.
Remembering is not about seeing everything through rose-tinted glasses, far from it. The idea of the red poppy after all is to remember the blood that was shed, the sacrifice, and those who came back from the war, injured or hurt in other ways. Even those who came back officially “unchanged” would never be the same again after that experience – how could you be? Remembering then is a case of facing up to recalling the unpleasant, the things we would far rather not think about.
Remembering is also about recalling how fleeting freedom and, indeed life itself, can be. That I think will have even more meaning this year given the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Having war brought back to Europe is something that rightly horrifies us. I am sure my grandparents’ generation would be looking aghast at what is going on right now. Sometimes I think we don’t remember enough.
Remembrance – Bringing People Together
On a more positive note, remembering brings people together. I’ll be going to a village War Memorial service on Sunday where the village churches and other community bodies come together to pay their respects. It is always deeply moving. The names of villagers killed in the wars (and The Falklands War) are read out and what always strikes me is how many families lost loved ones. Some families lost several.
Last year, some local horse riders formed a barrier at either end of the event to stop traffic coming through for the Two Minutes’ Silence and the Last Post. (Very little is so important that it cannot wait for a few minutes for those things to happen. Had an ambulance etc come through, everyone would have cleared the way, of course). I did think the involvement of the horses was very touching though. It made me think of the animals sacrificed in war, especially in World War One.
I just wish the sense of community which does come about when taking part in these ceremonies would carry on for longer than it does though. It does take something like that and the late Queen’s various Jubilees to bring this out of us as a nation (and I think it is one of our nicer qualities. That community is there. Maybe we do need to express it more often than we do).
Remembrance – Counting Your Blessings
Counting your blessings sounds like such an old-fashioned thing to do, yes? In some ways, it is of course, but I’ve found the act of remembrance does make me grateful for family, friends, the joys of the creative life, classical music, my dogs (past and present), and so much else besides. Why? Partly it is because the act of remembrance makes you think about those who didn’t get to enjoy these things or for whom their period of being able to do so was brutally cut short.
One thing my late father always remembered was the day sweets came off the ration! Even towards the end of his life, he remembered that well (and the general rejoicing amongst youngsters of his age at the time!). Perhaps it is the little things that have the biggest impact. My late mother and her sister were huge fans of the good old cuppa. Just as well tea came off the ration too then.
I think you do need to make time to appreciate the finer things of life (and for me that obviously includes books, chocolate, and swimming – though not all at the same time!). Taking time out to remember does us good I think. And remembering those who carried out their duty and did so well again causes me to be grateful I, and my loved ones, have not had to face what they did. And that brings me to the Kohima Epitaph. See the Royal British Legion link for more on this.
‘When You Go Home, Tell Them Of Us And Say,
For Your Tomorrow, We Gave Our Today.’
John Maxwell Edmonds (1875-1958).
Laurence Binyon’s famous poem says it all.
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.
We will, indeed. It is an honour to do so.
Read blog posts by Allison Symes published on Chandler’s Ford Today.
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