Tuesday, 10 November 2015

A Prelude to Remembrance Day

The following was written by Bruce, our serving member who occasionally sends us a post. A couple of months ago I asked him to write something for us for Remembrance Day. 
What he has written is moving and leaves me without words to express what I feel........


Remembrance Day, 11 Nov 1918 to 2015.

Almost 100 years ago the guns fell silent across Europe, The War to End all Wars had come to its climax. Those that had signed up to fight for King and Country would be coming home. For some four years had past since they had enlisted in the Army, four years they had been away from their families, the dislocation of this would be far reaching and carry a legacy for years to come.

Over 2 million soldiers had been killed from across the combatant nations, millions had been maimed either physically or mentally. The cost on the nations involved would draw them all into an economic depression; the human cost would outstrip the great depression if it was put into a monetary figure.

For many the return home would be so overwhelming; where those that had not gone to war would never and could never understand the vast chasm of experience of what their fellow country men had endured. “So what was it like” would be the common question, how would you answer this? Where would you begin to start? For many the experience was too graphic, too overwhelming, they chose to bury their experiences, put the war behind them and get on with life. For others they could not come to terms with what they had come through, why had they survived when all around them had not?

For families they lived with a father that sometimes either seemed disjointed or had nightmares, aggression, alcoholism, not talking about their war time alter life. Some knew their mum or dad had served but not in what capacity, it was as if this person they lived with was reborn as another. The one endearing thing to come of it all was an overriding mateship, to help your fellow man through whatever life could throw at them.

Australia was impacted in a way that is reflected in each and every town throughout this vast nation. Huge marble platforms of faceless names, or trophies that our men had captured in battle, some were built even as peace had been declared. Each community endeavoured to raise funds to build their own memorial to the fallen, from the grieving mother, father, daughter, son, whose fallen hero was now another name on the Menin gate.

Our greatest dedication to those that served would be the War memorial in Canberra, the brain child of CEW Bean, this memorial would come to encompass all conflicts that Australia has served in. A chilling yet sobering image of the red poppies wedged into the lists of names etched in bronze upon the walls of the gallery of reflection.

The Great War, the War to End all Wars, it reached into every home, every family, one in five who served overseas didn’t return. Those that did return felt guilt, remorse, a burning question of why they survived when their mates didn’t. Each town would clamber to build its own tangible link with those that didn’t return, who now lay in foreign field’s to make a corner of this globe a piece of Australia forever.

The most poignant image of the Great War is the Flanders poppy, synonymous with the carnage of the Western front, of rows upon rows blowing in the breeze, the scarlet and black. To represent the blood and flesh offered up for sacrifice just as rosemary is for ANZAC day. The vast fields of marble grave stones who stretch on for acres like so many perfectly formed teeth against a green sea of tranquillity, which culminates in gates or arches to commemorate the dead or missing.

For us to pause for but a minute to remember those fallen, those that have gone before us, that missing generation who gave their innocence so we could live free. They gave for our country and those of other countries to prevent oppression and atrocities against humanity, this breed of people who would give their all, without question.

Yet here we are today, the same history repeating itself in many guises and names. Have we learnt from our past?  Yes we have, but this nation will still give its all to fight for right, to put a hand out to help a friend up. The youth of this country are still just as adventurous and innocent in some ways, that larrikin attitude still shines through.
Yet that youth has grown up and they are more mature, we can stand on our own two feet and be counted for the nation we have become, with pride on an international stage.

So when that minute of silence comes at 11am on the 11th day of the 11th month of each year, stop and pause to remember those that have gone before this generation. That Flanders poppy you wear to enhance that memory, to give but a small sample of the horrors of the western front, but yet the beauty and simplicity of nature to heal itself.




In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below

We are the dead, short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields

John McCrae 1916

Yours sincerely

Bruce


Lest we forget.

4 comments: