One of the weekly rituals I practiced for many a year in the church I previously attended was taking part in the Communion service, where the central act was partaking in the bread and wine as an act of remembrance of the one who gave His life for us as a sacrifice for our sin. It has always occurred to me that remembering is something very important (for the truth of the matter is we so easily forget and shouldn’t) and while I am not particularly good at doing so on set occasions, I was glad to be reminded around 8.30 today, thanks to the BBC Radio 4 Today program, that there was yet another good reason to remember. In fact there at least 19,240 reasons for remembering, for that was the number of British soldiers that were killed when the battle began at precisely this time, 100 years ago.
It is a salutary thought that when we mourn yet another military casualty where British soldiers are involved, and recent conflicts e.g. in Iraq and Afghanistan, where those killed can numbered in the hundreds, this almost seems insignificant when we consider the number killed in the Battle of the Somme. As I researched this piece, it became quite apparent that there is a plethora of information about the battle and associated issues available on the Internet, to reinforce my own long standing interest in this important episode in our history. As for images to share, there are many: soldiers in trenches, soldiers marching across no-man’s land (only to be mowed down by machine gun fire), and graves of dead soldiers. I chose on reflecting to choose a simple poppy, the sort I and countless others wear come Remembrance day, each year November 11th, when the First World War (that was meant to end all wars) ceased.
I am not quite sure why I should post on this subject today, and if it weren’t for the fact that Radio 4 reported some of the readings, military gun salutes and two minute silence that took place barely an hour ago, I may not have done. But it was a salutary and timely reminder, for which I am thankful. I can hardly begin to imagine the horrors that were endured for what many of my forbearers considered to be a just war to secure a peaceful and just future for future generations. Nothing I can do will come anywhere close to recognizing the human sacrifice and tragedy that took place, as well as so much futility that we do well to try to avoid a repeat of. But if nothing else, I need to pay my respects and honour their memory.
IN FLANDERS FIELDS POEM
The World’s Most Famous WAR MEMORIAL POEM
By Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae
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