Image Credit: Images created in Book Brush using Pixabay photos. One image directly from Pixabay and used on previous CFT post.
Remembering matters. There are some things we dare not forget. I believe in the truth of the saying those who forget history are destined to relive it. It is an honour and privilege to join in with the Acts of Remembrance for Armistice Day and Remembrance Sunday. The television and radio coverage is moving (as it should be).
The Role of Poetry
It is at this time of the year poetry comes into its own as we recite or listen to familiar words at the ceremonies taking place. More information on the war poets can be found at the Imperial War Museum’s website.
Also see the full words of Laurence Binyon’s famous work For the Fallen.
Isaac Watt’s famous hymn, O God Our Help In Ages Past, will inevitably be sung with its moving line of Time like an ever rolling stream bears all its sons away. The right words, whether written or sung, have a powerful impact. The theme of this hymn is timeless (ironically) which is why it will always have an emotional impact on people.
If there was one poem which recalls the horrors of war, I would say it was In Flanders Fields – and do check out the video for this below.
Words have such a powerful impact and never more so than here. Symbolism comes into its own too, sometimes showing the things we cannot express easily in words alone.
And then there was Blackadder Goes Forth with its justly renowned ending for its last episode, Goodbyeee. I watched this the first time on television, have heard the audio version of it, and seen the stage version of it when The Chameleon Theatre Group staged this. You can’t overstate the brilliance of how this was done. Just occasionally comedy can say it best of all. Comedy and tragedy are kin after all. Never more so than here.
The Personal Impacts
I went to the Imperial War Museum in London some years ago. It was a moving and educational experience. I visited The Holocaust Exhibition and what really hit home to me was seeing all of the shoes that had been retrieved. There is something so very personal about shoes.
I found the same to be true again when I went back to the Royal Naval Dockyard in Portsmouth after the Mary Rose had finished its restoration processes and was in its Mary Rose Experience. Again you get to see the shoes which were recovered from the mud. Again it brings home to you that these were real people.
At the Remembrance Sunday service I go to, the names of the dead from the village concerned are read out. Again it brings it home these were real people who gave up everything for our freedom. It is particularly heart wrenching when there are several names from the same family read out.
Then there is the story of The Unknown Warrior. It was imaginative and compassionate thinking to want to have something to commemorate those who fell in battle but whose bodies have never been found or, even where they were, formal identification was not possible.
Then there are the stories you hear including that of the London cabbies who give free lifts from Waterloo to The Cenotaph for veterans taking part in the march past. War is ugly. It always will be (and should be). But things like this story do lift the human spirit, reminding us there is kindness and decency and honour out there. I think we need reminding of that.
The Commonwealth War Graves Commission
I am always deeply touched by the care and love shown by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission. Their dedication is remarkable to those who served whose dedication led to the ultimate sacrifice.
I’ve shared the link to the Commission’s website here. You can put in the name of a loved one killed on active service and if the Commonwealth War Graves Commission know about them, you can download a certificate showing name, service number. where they served, where they were killed, age, who their parents were. You can also put in a surname and scroll down the list of names that come up. Inevitably and sadly there is often a list. But the wish to not forget is touching and important.
George Butterworth, Composer
A piece of classical music which is often played on Classic FM is The Banks of Green Willow which was composed by George Butterworth who died at The Somme. It is a lovely work and I can’t help but wonder how much else he would have gone on to have composed had he got through World War One.
Maybe the act of remembering should include being grateful for what we have and a reminder to make the most of our own lives. It is too easy to take things for granted and this is another reason why the formal Acts of Remembrance are vital. They make us, I find, face up to this.
The Role of the War Artists
I’ve recently finished reading Churchill’s Wizards which looks at the tricks and deceptions used against Nazi Germany and how camouflage and other techniques developed from lessons learned from World War One. It’s a fascinating book. It’s also available as an ebook which is how I read it.
The war artists played a considerably important role here and their work would have/did lead to a considerable number of lives being saved. The National Portrait Gallery have a section on the World War Two war artists and you can also look up specific people such as Montgomery.
Another interesting article can be found at The History Press.
I find it poignant and appropriate that the arts contribute to our understanding and aid us in our Acts of Remembrance. There is no more solemn music than that of The Last Post.
It is never easy working out how to commemorate the importance of remembering for a post like this. All I know is it is vital that we do so. Music, art, poetry – all wonderful things in and of themselves – come into their own for this I think. There are times a piece of music will just reflect how you feel in a way you yourself cannot express. O God Our Help In Ages Past always does this for me.
I take the opportunity to share my Remembrance post from last year below but also Christine Clark’s poignant article on the war memorials and the Tomb of the Unknown Warrior.
History matters. We live it. We want to live it well. It honours those who gave up everything if we do so.
For our tomorrows, they did indeed give up their todays.
Read blog posts by Allison Symes published on Chandler’s Ford Today.
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