Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Lest We Forget

Today is the day that many Commonwealth countries (Great Britain, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, etc), France, Belgium, and others remember and pay respect to mark the end of World War One. The armistice was signed to end hostilities at the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month.

In cities, towns and villages across these countries, people observe two minutes silence to recall the supreme sacrifice paid by young people to defend the many freedoms we enjoy today. Walls of names on these monuments stretch into the distance and identify the hellishness of war. This year marks the 90th anniversary of the end of the war and extremely few very elderly men survive from this time, all well over 100. The last Australian WW1 soldier passed away recently while only three British WW1 soldiers remain.

The symbolic red corn poppy which grew wild across the muddy and harsh battle fields of the flatlands of Flanders in northern France and Belgium is worn near the heart - the red being symbolic of the bloodshed of the fallen soldiers.
Along with the sole bugler playing The Last Post, the words of the Ode of Remembrance are read out:

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.
Lest we forget.

I recall visiting two of these cemeteries in France some years ago, both near Villers-Bretonneux in northern France - beautifully maintained and places of true serenity and peace. The vast majority of those headstones marked young men who were less than 25 years of age, many in their teens and many unidentified. Even the hardiest of souls couldn't help but be moved.

There is a resurgence in interest in understanding, remembering and paying respect to the fallen from these past wars. I find it reassuring that the memories are strengthening with time rather than fading.

Lest we forget!


Suzanne Perazzini said...

My grandfather, God rest his soul, went through the whole of World War I on the front including the disastrous Gallipoli and The Somme. He was injured at one point, sent to a hospital for a few weeks and then sent straight back to the front. He was in the cavalry and they were sent on a death charge against the enemy on his 21st birthday. Most of his mates were killed that day. It’s no wonder it took him 60 years before he could start to talk about it.

iWalk said...

I think it's a meaningful day to the whole world.

I saw many monuments with "lest we gorget" sign at Sydney, I was deeply moved by this kind of memo, Because you know, the national hero's monuments were not protected well in our country,People are forgetting!

The damage of war, and the sacrifice for peace, Lest we forget!

Martin Miller-Yianni said...

This must never end, remembering those who fought for where we are today. Something good to say about the countries that practice this. Let's hope it doesn't get too commercialised like everything else.

Martin Miller-Yianni said...


ps Thanks for you comment on my blog. I have entered you on my blogroll list.

Angus said...

After 6 years as a soldier in the British army its great to see that some still remember.

Another moving tribute to fallen heros is the museum of the Battle of the Bulge and Ardennes offensive in Bastogne. When I was last there they allowed the kids to climb all over the tanks... Great way to teach a difficult subject to ones so young.

Mark H said...

@suzanne: Many apparently never spoke of it. Thank you for sharing on what must be a special day for you.

@iwalk: Let's hope it always remains meaningful to the world.

@martin: I agree completely.

@angus: Military museums and displays seem to generally be well done. The Australian War Memorial is an extraordinary experience for people of all ages. Congrats on your service.

Lifecruiser said...

Yes, I remember reading a lot about this. Very memorable times worthy of remembering indeed!

GMG said...

Hi Mark! Interesting post. As Portugal had no soldiers in WWII, I always remember when I was young hearing about the Armistice of WWI!
Amazing Hum!!
So you also climbed the Harbour Bridge... Great windy views from the top!
Meanwhile Blogtrotter is back to Greece in November 2007! Hope you enjoy and have a great weekend!

Mark H said...

@lifecruiser: Well worth remembering.

@gmg: Thanks

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