Lest We Forget…

At the eleventh second of the eleventh minute of the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month…..

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At 5am the armistice treaty between the Allies and Germany was agreed and signed in a railway carriage in Compiegne Forest in France on November 11 1918. It was to come into effect at 11am and marked the end of the First World War on the Western Front.

In the UK the main observance is on the second Sunday of November although two minutes’ silence is observed on 11 November itself. This year the days coincide.

Ceremonies are held at War Memorials throughout the land, usually organised by local branches of the Royal British leigon – an association for ex-servicemen. Typically, poppy wreaths are laid by representatives of the Crown, the armed forces, and local civic leaders, as well as by local organisations including the Royal British leigon, ex-servicemen organisations, cadet forces, the Scouts, Guides, Boys’ Brigade, St John Ambulance and the Salvation Army. “The Last Post” is played by a trumpeter or bugler, and two minutes’ silence is observed and then broken by a trumpeter playing “Reveille”.

A minute’s or two minutes’ silence is also frequently incorporated into church services, and even everyday locations such as supermarkets and banks may invite their customers and staff to fall silent at 11am

In all wars it is the young folk who are sacrificed as ‘Cannon Fodder’ while the Generals and World Leaders pontificate from comfortable warm bunkers well away from danger.

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Today as you hear a bell toll, take a look around you and focus on a young man of eighteen or nineteen years of age. Ok, so he might be a ‘hoodie’ but he is alive, imagine the life being snuffed out of him never to be seen or heard from again. In WW1 a whole generation of young men were lost (war was a man thing back then); many of them were not yet out of their teens.

While you are thinking of the young men, remember all the young women waiting back home working the farms, the factories, the shops and dealing with all the everyday matters of living. For some no young man returned and for others the men who survived were unrecognisable because of injury, shell shock or were shattered in spirit by horrendous recurring nightmares. For some fortunate to have a husband return healthy in mind and body, it might mean giving up a new found independence and a return to being the ‘little woman’ in the kitchen.

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5 thoughts on “Lest We Forget…

  1. Grannymar – what a lovely tribute to those who served in both wars. Your story brought back a memory today from my childhood.

    I never met any of my grandparents as they all died young but our family had a ‘substitute’ granny who joined us for family events. We all adored Aunt Eve, as she was known. She was a very tall, elegant and dignified lady who lived alone. I only found out in later years that she was not actually related to the family. She was engaged to be married to my maternal grandfather’s brother who went off to war (WW1) and sadly never returned. She was devastated by this and never tried to start another relationship. My mother’s family took her under their wing and thankfully there she remained until her death.

    Aunt Eve had a lovely habit of counting (out loud) each item of food on her plate before she would begin to eat her Christmas dinner. We’ve carried on this tradition in my family on Christmas Day ever since!

  2. Steph, thanks for that lovely story.

    I always felt the role of women during and after WW1 was so taken for granted.

    Nowadays we take so much for granted and expect it NOW!

  3. 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.

    Lt. Colonel John McCrae M.D.
    Medical Officer; 1st. Field Artillary Brigade
    Professor of Medicine
    McGill University
    Montreal, Quebec, Canada

  4. Very fine words, I’d just amend one of them – the 19 year olds – they could have been as young as 16 or even 14 – absolutely shocking.

    We should also remember the women left to work in the factories back home, my maternal grandmother worked in a munitions factory during WW2 and often hinted, but never spoke openly about “accidents” that happened there which they were told not to speak of under the official secrets act, a vow which she upheld to her grave.

    I do know that in York Minster there was unveiled a few years ago, a plaque to 20 or so (can’t remember the exact number) women who died in one explosion at the Leeds Barnbow Munitions Factory, a fact which had been supressed for nearly forty years after the event …

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