« Beginning of the end? | Main | No man is an island »

November 11, 2005

Remembrance Day

On the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918 and at the 11th hour of the morning, the guns across the Western Front in Europe fell silent. According to those who were there, the silence was unnatural, not even a bird dared to disturb the stillness for several minutes. There were no cheers on the Somme or Ypres salients, nor on the rest of the Allied frontline. Right up to the final minute, the artillery continued firing at targets on the German lines and received return fire. One of the most senseless actions of those final minutes, was a cavalry charge by German cavalry across open and well defended ground which was stopped, well short of the Allied positions, by machine-gun fire. Almost the entire troop and their horses died in that final act of war.

The exhausted troops were simply too tired to cheer, or too traumatised by the events they had witnessed - or just grateful that they had survived. They had almost nothing to cheer about, too many friends had died, too many lay crippled and too many had lost their minds in the senseless slaughter of the preceding five years. Yet, within a generation, the same protagonists would be at each others throats again. Perhaps it is time to remember that the price of peace is vigilance and strength, something proved so graphically by the fear of further conflict that drove the appeasement movement between the wars.

My grandfathers, a great grandfather and great uncle all fought in the First Great War, so did an uncle. Two of the five were very underage when they joined up, all were marked by diseases contracted in their campaigns or by injuries received in battle. Two fought in Flanders and on the Somme, one in East Africa and two more in German South West Africa and in Palestine. Three were gassed, one almost died at the Somme - yet, a generation later, two were again in service, albeit in training duties and their children were abroad in North Africa, Burma and Europe. All of them suffered wounds and some less obvious scars - deep one's that have affected everyone who knew them. Until I began to study the campaigns they fought, I never really understood any of it, but now I think I have at least some understanding of what it was they underwent.

We live in a free society today, one they paid for in blood to keep free. We owe it to them all, every soldier, airman and sailor, every nurse aid, every volunteer to keep that freedom and to never surrender to those who would impose their dictatorial visions upon the rest of us. As the words of memorial say:

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.

And in remembering them we must also resist every attempt to take from us the freedom that they won at such great cost.

Ecclesiasticus/Sirach 44 vv. 1 – 15 RSV

1 Let us now praise famous men, and our fathers in their generations.
2 The Lord apportioned to them great glory, his majesty from the beginning.
3 There were those who ruled in their kingdoms, and were men renowned for their power, giving counsel by their understanding, and proclaiming prophecies;
4 leaders of the people in their deliberations and in understanding of learning for the people, wise in their words of instruction;
5 those who composed musical tunes, and set forth verses in writing;
6 rich men furnished with resources, living peaceably in their habitations-
7 all these were honoured in their generations, and were the glory of their times.
8 There are some of them who have left a name, so that men declare their praise.
9 And there are some who have no memorial, who have perished as though they had not lived; they have become as though they had not been born, and so have their children after them.
10 But these were men of mercy, whose righteous deeds have not been forgotten;
11 their prosperity will remain with their descendants, and their inheritance to their children's children.
12 Their descendants stand by the covenants; their children also, for their sake.
13 Their posterity will continue forever, and their glory will not be blotted out.
14 Their bodies were buried in peace, and their name lives to all generations.
15 Peoples will declare their wisdom, and the congregation proclaims their praise.

Posted by The Gray Monk at November 11, 2005 03:22 PM

Trackback Pings

TrackBack URL for this entry:


Thank you for your words remembering our veterens. My grandfather fought in both the Second World War and Vietnam, and my father navigated planes over Vietnam. Even having read of life on the fronts of these wars, I think it is beyond me to fully understand the scope of what these and other men went through. I know I will be grateful for their gift, and hope to do my part so that such sacrifice is not asked of another genaration.

Posted by: ParaguayMK at November 12, 2005 09:34 AM