I used to pass a small group of crosses on my way north to Calais. One day, I stopped in a lay-by and made my way down the banking and into the corner of this field. Sitting amid these un-named soldiers was incredibly evocative. Remembrance at its most effective.
Whisper my name to the small cathedral of my friends.
Call them to remembrance,
in the sunken corner of this foreign field.
Bid them tread the duckboards I will lay,
to point the way, cross pasture laid to corn.
Where once we wore the Saviour's Crown of Thorns.
The rest of the Division lies majestically at rest.
In the Garden of Gethsemane,
below the Menin Road.
Where the children of our children
are sent to learn the lesson
which we never had ourselves.
But they never visit us,
small and sheltered as we are.
Un-named crosses, un-mapped graves below the road.
Fifteen crosses, all young Scotsmen,
not forgotten just unseen.
And the farmer places flowers on them all.
Thanks for the poem Jim.
I also believe it's important to explain to children the reason for this bank holiday (in France) and tell them about past. For me, timing is as important nor are poppies. It's about the message we pass on to others. Our little ones went for a walk in the forest with the school last Thursday and then stopped at the 'monument aux morts' where the teachers explained its meaning. That was great but the next day (11/11/11), few parents took their children to the ceremony. I just hope they talked about it at home.
My husband and I attended the Remembrance ceremony in St Pee-sur-Nivelle this morning. We are both ex-Army (him 18 years of service; me 9 years). A decree from the M. le President was read out stating that, as the last of the veterans of the Great War had passed away, the day in France will now commemorate all conflicts and also made a special reference to those men and women who had died in the last year. This reflects the view that has been held for some years in the UK.
This is the first time that we have been in France as civilians at a Remembrance ceremony - the previous occasions having been on military duties in Normandy. We were given a really warm welcome and had the honour of meeting the village's most experienced veteran whose campaigns included WWII, Indochine, Algeria etc. as a Parachutiste. It always pulls on my heart strings to hear a hero say the words, 'I'm 87 and I'm now paying for the wars that I've fought, but I'm a Parachutiste and I'll die standing up; a Parachutiste never dies in his bed.' Others attending were keen to ask us about our own campaign medals (Iraq, Afghanistan, Bosnia among others) which British servicemen and women wear on Remembrance Day, and also about our poppies, which one lady thought was only a Belgian tradition. Conversely we were told about the French tradition to wear a blue cornflower or blue cornflower badge, as opposed to a poppy. These grew alongside the poppies in the fields. As we understood it, wounded soldiers who were sent to hospital from the trenches, made blue ribbons to represent the cornflowers whilst convalescing. These were recognised as a symbol of the wounded, rather than the dead. I think this is what we understood and am happy to be put right if it's not correct.
Having been unable to buy poppies, I contacted the Royal British Legion and sold poppies in our region last week. It was a bit last minute so I didn't throw the net wider. I have a box of poppies which I will hold for next year. Don't hesitate to contact me or note down my name for the future if you would like me to send you poppies.
My great uncle was one of the first into Auschwitz, he never had children but would have made a wonderful father, he wouldn't bring children into the world after what he'd seen. That's all I know, he wouldn't talk about the rest. My great grandad went to war a happy strong man, he came back a shadow of himself and died very young, they said he was shell shocked - today we hope there are support networks out there to help with post traumatic stress, back then he returned to his family as a stranger and died soon after. I won't forget and I will make sure my children won't forget whether in France or the UK.
My husband and I also attended the War Memorial in our small village here in the Deux Sevres as a mark of respect for the fallen of both our countries and also as an act of solidarity to our French Friends and Neighbours. Sadly, although we are not the only English in this village, as last year, we were the only English to attend which I think is sad and a missed opportunity to meet with the Maire and others and to feel at least part of village life. I thought a lot of our young soldiers over in Afghanistan who will not return to our shores and the families they have left behind. My father, I am very proud to say, was a Chindit and served in Wingate's forgotten army in India and Burma during the second world war, sadly, although he was one of the lucky ones to survive and return home, he died at the age of 72 years in 1985. Like a lot of 'old soldiers' he never would speak about his experiences in this horrendous war and would always shed tears whilst watching the Remembrance Services on t.v.I thought Jim's poem was beautiful and a rightful tribute to all young men who served well their country in time of war.
Jim, the debate developed as that's the nature of SFN. I'm glad it did as I was very interested in David's response & thank you David for your work at the BBC, I knew for sure that I could turn on the BBC today and would see good coverage of 11/11 which I used to explain to my toddler. We have been wearing poppies for the past week & today I was able to explain about the soldiers & others that lost their lives.
@Roy - if you go on the British Legion website you can buy poppies and make a donation at the same time.
I'll be watching on Sunday too and will explain again to my toddler. Years ago I used to go on parades with the air cadets, as young people we understood the significance of the Armistice, sadly the number of veterans able to turn out to such parades is falling as time goes by but it is always good to see the young & the old joining together to remember why we have our freedom today.
My post was originally the verse story of a small group of graves under the motorway in Northern France. Not sure why debate has developed. 19 million of my family died; I'm not likely to forget it.
My grandfather was in the trenches on the Somme in the First World war and my father served in the Second World War, and we were brought up to respect the sacrifice of those who paid the untimate price for those conflicts. Sadly it is difficult to find poppies here. Anyone who treats Remembrance Day lightly - usually politicians their ilk - should be made to endure a day of similar hardships as those that served did. Probably put an end to wars then.
I explained to my toddler today the reason why we wear the poppy. I'm not sure she understood but she will do in years to come.
@ Jim - perhaps if the UK made today a bank holiday as it is in France then British children would understand the significance of 11/11. As most people are at work (whereever I worked we always respected the 2 minute silence) or at school (good to see British primary schools respecting the silence with an assembly - young children the age of 4 sat quietly in respect), Remembrance Sunday is important to allow us to pay respects & attend parades as few people are off on the actual day itself. The Cenotaph and Trafalgar Square as well as many other places in the UK were busy today with people respecting the 2 minute silence. Britain hasn't forgotten it is today, more that without the bank holiday people have 2 occasions to remember those lost.
No matter the hour, today we should remember those who died to enable others to live in relative Peace.
Let's remember NEVER to forget them and be grateful.
Perhaps we should bear in mind that today is the anniversary of the Ceasefire. British children can be forgiven for thinking it was on a Sunday at 11am. The French may be a bit off in their timing, but they don't move Remembrance to make it more convenient. I'm not even going to start on the time difference.
I went to our village Remembrance ceremony. It started at 11.15am! I told the maire I was quite shocked about this as the original signing was at 11am, and he said it was the General who decided on the time. Has the General forgotten??
So we had the minute's silence at some random time between 11.15 and 11.30.
Goose Bumps. Thanks Jim.
It's so important to keep 'Remembrance' alive. It is easy to imagine how its importance might decline if those who hold it dear don't keep watch.
If you would like to wear a poppy but can't get hold of one in your area of France, then why not buy a Poppy pin from the British Legion http://www.poppyshop.org.uk/jewellery/poppy-jewellery.html?p=1 I've been able to get poppies this year as I'm in England for Armistace day but I will be buying a Poppy Brooch to wear next year when I'm back in France.