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Monday, 10 November 2014

Of War and Remembrance

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

from ‘For The Fallen’
- by Robert Laurence Binyon

This Remembrance Day, as I usually do, I will take time out to attend a service, honouring the sacrifice of those who have fought and died in the past century. It was instilled in me long ago how important this is, and I have done so every year that I have been able, throughout my adulthood.

Of war and Remembrance-Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red
Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red. Photo courtesy of Mike Riordan


There is no glory in war. It doesn’t take much imagination to know that the pride and patriotism that compels people to enlist must surely evaporate when faced with the reality of the battlefield. And this year as we commemorate the 100th Anniversary of the beginning of the First World War, The War to End All Wars, it is not only ironic, but heart-breaking that military personnel from so many countries still find themselves in harm’s way.

There are those who have sought to change the tradition of remembrance, who would rather we focus on peace, and I can’t honestly disagree with that. I would wish nothing more than that the world put an end to the perpetual cycle of killing and destruction. And it is their right to voice their opinions, one of the rights we hold dear, paid for by the sacrifices of those we remember.

To those who seek such change though, I would say they are missing the point. Remembrance Day is about loss, not war. To them I would ask that they look into the eyes of a veteran, certainly one who was in combat, and see the unspeakable sadness, and yes the pride, of fighting for a cause, but also in surviving to tell their tale. And directly or indirectly, the losses of war are borne by all of us. Families, communities and countries that could never be the same again.

Of War and Remembrance-Tower of London
The Tower of London. Photo courtesy of Mike Riordan

These photos show the poppy installation at the Tower of London, called Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red. The visual is jaw-dropping, that each flower represents the life of a British or Commonwealth soldier sobering and that there have been over four million visitors show that it still touches a nerve. In Yeovil, the town where I grew up, a local historian is commemorating, online, each of the 332 men lost from there in WWI. (For more information go to  www.yeovilhistory.info). This seems to be a labour of love, a very personal tribute.

Finally on the subject of loss, here is a figure I found as I researched – Thirty-seven million. 37,000,000. This is the estimated total casualties, dead and wounded, military and civilian, of The First World War. This number is mind-bogglingly huge, almost too big to wrap my brain around, at least without some context. That came when I realized it is more than the current population of Canada.

Recent events here in Canada changed the nature of this post somewhat. It was originally much more personal. But this country is forever altered, in a world long since changed from what it was a hundred years ago. War is now surreptitious. There are no front lines to which soldiers are called up. Everywhere is a front line, and our rights have to be balanced with the responsibilities they also entail.

I know that as I remember that which we seemed doomed to repeat, I will be touched, as I always am, by the moving words of Laurence Binyon. And I will cry, as I always do, when they play The Last Post.


Lest We Forget.


6 comments:

  1. Thank you for sharing this informative and wonderfully illustrated post of remembrance.

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    1. Thank you for reading, Val. Remembrance will be all the more important this year.

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  2. Beautifully said, Donna. And I'm so glad you mentioned the Tower of London installation. We have sponsored two poppies--one for our grandfather, and one for his brother, who did not come back.

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    1. Karen, I am sorry for your loss, and grateful for their service. I wish I could have seen the poppies at the Tower. By all accounts it was very moving.

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  3. Beautifully done, Donna! My husby is forever quoting: "Those who forget the past are doomed to repeat it". Let us not ever forget!

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    1. Thank you Diane. Yes, we must always remember.

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