I take my turn at the local Catholic Church to do the readings at mass and prefer to go to the Saturday evening mass rather than Sunday morning one. This Saturday was my turn and it also happened to be the 99th anniversary of the 1918 Armistice, the 11th hour of the 11th day… Both during and at the end of mass there were specific references and prayers related to Remembrance Sunday. Especially nice the hymn “For those in peril on the sea” and after a chorus of “God Save the Queen” we finished with “Jerusalem” !
This bought to mind many people like my Irish Grandfather who fought with the Dublin Fusiliers during WW1 and especially my own Father who served in the Royal Engineers throughout WWII.
The Words of Remembrance
There are probably two classic deliveries that we always associate with Remembrance Sunday the first is an extract from a longer poem by Robert Laurence Binyon
“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.”
The second sometimes called the Kohima Prayer but in fact it is the Kohima Epitaph. Rather echoing the epitaph of the Greeks at the pass at Thermopylae by the poet Simonides of Ceos (Kios) (586 – 468 B.C.), who immortalised it as: “O stranger, go home and tell the Spartans that we lie here in obedience to their orders”. The epitaph is carved on the Memorial of the 2nd British Division in the cemetery of Kohima (North-East India). It reads as follows:
‘When You Go Home, Tell Them Of Us And Say,
For Your Tomorrow, We Gave Our Today.’
Growing up in post war London in the 1950s, compared with today the military was a factor in most lives, all the adults I knew had “served” during the war and conscription still existed. I never heard an adult I knew talk about “their war”, people just didn’t though from time to time the veil was lifted as they briefly shared an often humorous anecdote from their time in the services. I can remember one chap I worked for during the 1970s, he was gruff but I was fond of him and it was only by accident through a relative of his, that I found out that he had won not just one but two Military Crosses behind the lines during the Italian Campaign.
But it is to my Father I will return for this Remembrance Sunday more about whom I wrote a piece on a few years back : http://baldysblog.co.uk/2015/03/25/my-fathers-medals/
My Parents had just the two boys, me and my elder brother Michael and we quite liked “war comics” of which there seemed to be a number in the 1950s, they made a nice change from the far more ‘worthy’ Eagle comic. I can remember my Father looking at one of these then looking at us two and asking; “Lads, do you think a German mother mourns the loss of her son any less than an English mother ?”
On another occasion we were talking about the Manchester City goal keeper Bert Trautmann OBE. He was a former German paratrooper and POW – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bert_Trautmann
Why he came up was that before he established himself as the star goalkeeper and fan favourite he became there were big protests about him because of his background and I can remember talking to my Father about this and again I can recall what he said even though I was still a child. “As a rule, the further you are away from the front line, the greater the hate for the enemy. Actually at the front there is a job to be done but there is little hate for neither side is better placed than the other, you all want to go home and you all suffer pretty much the same together regardless of what side you are on.”
So for this Remembrance Sunday, I remember my Father.