Remembrance Day

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Remembrance Day

Postby parnassus » Fri Nov 11, 2005 2:36 pm

Today, at eleven o'clock precisely, I observed the two-minute silence in memory of the war dead. I listened to I Vow to Thee, My Country and prayerfully read a selection of war poems. I am wearing my poppy with pride. Remembrance traditions have always been very important to me and I do my best to make the day special. At my last school the wearing of poppies was compulsory, we had our own service in honour of the war dead and the veterans (especially those who used to go to our school) and on the afternoon of Remembrance Sunday a group of us would walk down to the town square to watch the Veterans' Parade. I am deeply grateful to those soldiers, mainly because they were ordinary human beings who were probably absolutely terrified of suffering and leaving everything they had ever known - yet they went ahead and did it anyway.

Perhaps because my school and my family have always made a big fuss of Remembrance, I rather naively assumed that the custom is kept in almost every British household. Yet here in Cambridge hardly anyone is wearing poppies. So far I have seen just three Selwyn College students (besides myself) with a flower on their lapel. Over lunch today I had a conversation with an ordinary, white, middle-class, well-educated, extremely bright English girl - who asked, "So is today the Remembrance Day, then?" Feeling pained, I told her it was. She said, "What's it for? The First World War?"

I couldn't reply.

THen I saw TV footage of two World War One veterans laying poppy wreaths at the Cenotaph in London. There are approximately twenty-two WWI veterans alive in Britain, but only these two were well enough to attend the services. One of them, Harry Allingham, is one hundred and nine years old. He fought at the Somme, which makes him a pretty rare commodity - most of the soldiers who entered that killing-field never came out again. He is travelling to France to pay his final respects. I don't know whether you saw the video clip, but he was nearly crying. The other, William Stone, is one hundred and three. He is the only living Briton known to have fought in both World Wars.

Please go and watch this short five-minute video clip. I think it's important.

http://uk.news.yahoo.com/02112005/356/veterans-remember-great-war.html

Last year there were a few more First World War veterans at the Cenotaph. They're slowly but surely fading away. I'm so sad that the world wars are passing beyond living memory. But I'm sadder that not many of the people around me seem to care.
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Postby Pookie » Fri Nov 11, 2005 3:24 pm

Good post, sometimes I am appalled at how people are not aware of what the 11th November, on the 11th hour of the 11minute counts for.

Let us not forget those that gave their lives so we could leave in peace.
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Postby madame_tigre » Fri Nov 11, 2005 6:39 pm

I find Remembrance Day deeply moving as well.

Unfortunately, the link doesn't work on my computer. Is there any other way I could see it - I really would like to.

The WW1 veterans are so precious. It is very sad that in 10 years time it is probable that they will all have died. I think it's important that all those who fought will be forever praised and remembered but on the other hand I think Alfred Anderson has a point. He is 109 years old and the only man alive to have witnessed the unofficial truce on Christmas Day 1914 - This was when British and German soldiers exchanged gifts and had thought the war had finished. Alfred is upset because he wanted to spend the remainder of his life quietly and die peacefully, but now his private life has become public property. All these years he has been trying very hard to forget about what happened. I respect his privacy, but I think the reason he's getting public attention is because he is well appreciated and admired.

I did walk outside my office at 11:00 to have a silence but the office didn't turn quiet. It was hectic when I walked out and was just as hectic when I came back in again. Come on everyone! Don't you care about all these great people?
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Postby parnassus » Fri Nov 11, 2005 6:57 pm

http://uk.news.yahoo.com/uk/video/index.html

Rosanna. follow that link and it will bring you to a list of choices. Click on 'Nation Remembers War Dead' to see the video.

I find the story of the Christmas Day truce heartwarming and deeply poignant. I'm sad that the survivors of that day have had to relive their experiences so many times for the sake of a curious general public, but at the same time I am glad that we have all had a chance to share in what was probably one of the most extraordinary and hopeful moments in what was easily the world's most terrible conflict.
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Postby Hermionefan5 » Fri Nov 11, 2005 7:17 pm

It doesn't seem like it means much here anymore. In fact, our Vetran's Day, as it is called here is just a day off for most school kids. In our school district we had the day off for many years until about 2 years ago. I feel it is better to have school on this day because in school teachers can talk about the vetrans' contribution to our world and our country. My grandpa fought in World War II and my mom's cousin died in Vietnam. This is an important day that should be remembered even if it is just one moment of silence. Today I am going to go see Jarhead in honor of the Vetrans. Two guys I know had the idea to go out and have dinner, go to the movie, and then go to a memorial park. I think it is a good idea because it will help me remember what these people did. The movie Jarhead is based upon the true story of a soldier who fought in the first Gulf War in 1990-1991. It is supposed to be really good and accurate. In America, I think everyone kind of overlooks vetran's day since we already have Memorial Day in the spring to remember our vets. On Memorial Day, my family goes to the parade in our town where the vets of wars march down the streets and the High School bands play. The parade ends at the oldest cemetery in town and it is there that they play taps, shoot off the guns, rattle off the names of the people who have fought from our area, and the band plays Amazing Grace and Battle Hymn of the Republic. Memorial Day, Vetran's Day, Martin Luther King Day, and Pearl Harbor Day have all become sort of days where people don't really remember what they stand for. Even 9/11 is kind of becoming that way just four years after the fact. It was strange this year how it was barely even mentioned that we'd been attacked in 2001. They had a moment of silence at the football game, but that was about it. I mentioned it to my mom saying, "can you believe it has been 4 years?" and she said no. It is hard to believe that four years later people are already starting to forget. I know I will never ever forget that day as long as I live. Martin Luther King day has lost a little bit of value because it is a day off. I don't think it should be a day off because then people forget to remember what he did for all of us. It's better to have it be like Pearl Harbor Day or 9/11 when we can talk about it in school and have special services pertaining to it that people have to go to. As much as I like a day off, I think it is better to be in school/work remembering that person or people than what I would normally do on that day. For instance, on January 20th (Martin Luther King, Jr. Day) when I had the day off in elementary through high school, I would just kind of have friends over and not remember who he was. I'd think about him, yeah, but I didn't try to do any more than that. I want to do something different to remember Dr. King this year. 8) Just like I am doing something to remember our soldiers today. :)
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Postby eDan » Fri Nov 11, 2005 7:52 pm

Thanks for creating this thread Vicky, I was planning doing something similar on Sunday (Remembrance Sunday.)

I tend to mark the occasion on the Sunday rather than today because for one in a hectic office it is difficult to pull off. I actually attended the remembrance service at the Cenotaph last year. I'm glad I went as it was moving to see those survivors of the generations that gave so much. "They gave their tomorrow for our today" is the saying that I find resonates deeply.

My father was a war baby, yet he's not keen on the Remembrance service. I think he feels it somehow glorifies war and the suicidal decisions made by military commanders during the wars that sent so many thousands to their needless slaughter before the opposing side's machine guns. I can understand his point. So much of war does seem utterly senseless.

I think it's the Cenotaph that has the insciption "Our Glorious Dead". These sentiments I find hard to agree with. They died fighting for their country, but I wonder if the word glorious could be replaced by needless in so many cases.
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Postby parnassus » Fri Nov 11, 2005 8:27 pm

'Our Glorious Dead' can be misconstrued. I grew up thinking of the war dead as a host of calm, tranquil saints who went forth to their duty without a murmur. It was only when I began to read the poems of Wilfred Owen that I realised many of them were only young boys who were probably crying at night and shaking in the morning and swearing and feeling sick and sweating and turning cold with fear. When I realised that, I started to treasure their sacrifice even more, because they were ordinary people just like me. And they managed to do what I doubt I could be brave enough to try. I like to see the term 'our glorious dead' as a reflection on the gift they gave us, not as a description of the way they died. Wilfred Owen's poem Dulce et Decorum Est sums it up for me.

Bent double, like old beggars under sacks,
Knock-kneed, coughing like hags, we cursed through sludge,
Till on the haunting flares we turned our backs
And towards our distant rest began to trudge.
Men marched asleep. Many had lost their boots
But limped on, blood-shod. All went lame; all blind;
Drunk with fatigue; deaf even to the hoots
Of tired, outstripped Five-Nines6 that dropped behind.

Gas! Gas! Quick, boys! – An ecstasy of fumbling,
Fitting the clumsy helmets just in time;
But someone still was yelling out and stumbling,
And flound'ring like a man in fire or lime9 . . .
Dim, through the misty panes and thick green light,
As under a green sea, I saw him drowning.
In all my dreams, before my helpless sight,
He plunges at me, guttering choking, drowning.

If in some smothering dreams you too could pace
Behind the wagon that we flung him in,
And watch the white eyes writhing in his face,
His hanging face, like a devil's sick of sin;
If you could hear, at every jolt, the blood
Come gargling from the froth-corrupted lungs,
Obscene as cancer, bitter as the cud
Of vile, incurable sores on innocent tongues,
My friend, you would not tell with such high zest
To children ardent for some desperate glory,
The old Lie; Dulce et Decorum est
Pro patria mori.

If you go to my Xanga site and check today's comments, you will discover a rather interesting debate that I'm having with a friend on this topic.
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Postby eDan » Fri Nov 11, 2005 8:51 pm

I remember studying Wilfred Owen at A-level. The real images of the First War World trenches be it in actual film footage or first hand accounts paint a truly horrific scene.

Dulce et Decorum est pro patria mori
"It is sweet and fitting to die for your country."

Perhaps the notion of patriotism for your country has shifted in the numerous years that separate ourselves with the world wars, but it seems difficult to reconcile such notions in a modern context. Perhaps that's one reason why I find it difficult to comprehend a notion of glory with what took place. This is not to overlook the many heroic and self acts undertaken by many, or that so many were normal men thrown into appalling surroundings and hellish conditions, wanting simply to 'do their bit'.

Although written as a comedy, I'd recommend watching Blackadder Goes Forth to anyone who hasn't seen it for an account of WWI that reflects the insanity of what went on and the loss of a whole generation that occurred. The last episode never fails to make me blub. It ends by fading to a field of poppies, showing reference to the poem "In Flanders fields":

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.
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Postby parnassus » Fri Nov 11, 2005 9:16 pm

I love Blackadder. The clever thing about that series is that you expect the final episode to be just as comical - even farcial - as the preceding five. Even though the comedy is there, something starts to gently cut you up inside until the tears burn your eyes.

For those of you who haven't seen Blackadder and feel like a bit of reading, here is the script for the episode we're talking about: http://www.geocities.com/TelevisionCity/8889/bladder/ba4-6.txt

Edmund: (hangs up the phone, turns) Captain Darling...

Darling: Captain Blackadder.

Edmund: Here to join us for the last waltz?

Darling: (nervous) Erm, yes -- tired of folding the general's pyjamas.

George: Well, this is splendid, comradely news! Together, we'll fight for king and country, and be sucking sausages in Berlin by teatime.

Edmund: Yes, I hope their cafes are well stocked; everyone seems determined to eat out the moment they arrive.

George: No, really, this is brave, splendid and noble! Sir?

Edmund: Yes, Lieutenant?

George: I'm scared, sir.

Baldrick: I'm scared too, sir.

George: I mean, I'm the last of the tiddlywinking leapfroggers from the Golden Summer of 1914. I don't want to die. I'm really not overkeen on dying at all, sir.

Edmund: How are you feeling, Darling?

Darling: Erm, not all that good, Blackadder -- rather hoped I'd get through the whole show; go back to work at Pratt & Sons; keep wicket for the Croydon gentlemen; marry Doris... Made a note in my diary on my way here. Simply says, "Bugger."

Edmund: Well, quite.

(a voice outside gives orders)

Voice: (??)! (??)!

Edmund: Ah well, come on. Let's move.

Voice: Fix bayonets!

(They start to go outside)

Edmund: Don't forget your stick, Lieutenant.

George: Oh no, sir -- wouldn't want to face a machine gun without this!

(outside, they all line up as the shelling stops)

Darling: Listen! Our guns have stopped.

George: You don't think...?

Baldrick: Maybe the war's over. Maybe it's peace!

George: Well, hurrah! The big knobs have gone round the table and yanked the iron out of the fire!

Darling: Thank God! We lived through it! The Great War: 1914-1917.

George: Hip hip!

All but Edmund: Hurray!

Edmund: (loading his revolver) I'm afraid not. The guns have stopped because we're about to attack. Not even our generals are mad enough to shell their own men. They think it's far more sporting to let the Germans do it.

George: So we are, in fact, going over. This is, as they say, it.

Edmund: I'm afraid so, unless I think of something very quickly.

Voice: Company, one pace forward!

(everyone steps forward)

Baldrick: Ooh, there's a nasty splinter on that ladder, sir! A bloke could
hurt himself on that.

Voice: Stand ready!

(everyone puts a foot forward)

Baldrick: I have a plan, sir.

Edmund: Really, Baldrick? A cunning and subtle one?

Baldrick: Yes, sir.

Edmund: As cunning as a fox who's just been appointed Professor of Cunning at Oxford University?

Baldrick: Yes, sir.

Voice: On the signal, company will advance!

Edmund: Well, I'm afraid it'll have to wait. Whatever it was, I'm sure it was better than my plan to get out of this by pretending to be mad. I mean, who would have noticed another madman round here?

(whistle blows)

Edmund: Good luck, everyone. (blows his whistle)

(Everyone yells as they go over the top. German guns fire before they're even off the ladders. The scene changes to slow motion, and explosions happen all around them. [An echoed piano slowly plays the Blackadder theme.] The smoke and flying earth begins to obscure vision as the view changes to the battlefield moments later: empty and silent with barbed wire, guns and bodies strewn across it. [A bass drum beats slowly.] That view in turn changes to the same field as it is today: overgrown with grasses and flowers, peaceful, with chirping birds.)


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Postby pinkparrot » Fri Nov 11, 2005 9:21 pm

Interesting. Yet another T.V show I have been unlucky enough to miss. The TV set does not seem to get as much of my attention as the computer. As for "Dulce et Decorum Est", I love that poem and remember analysing it in a history lesson once. I can still see it in my head. Everyone else groaned whenever it was brought out.
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Postby parnassus » Fri Nov 11, 2005 9:34 pm

Blackadder is televised regularly, pinkparrot - in fact, I shouldn't be surprised if it were on about now to be in keeping with the time of the year. I don't watch television, but I do have a small selection of DVDs. Blackadder is one of them. The full series is reasonably priced on Amazon.co.uk.
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Postby pinkparrot » Fri Nov 11, 2005 9:36 pm

Any idea what channel it might be on?
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Postby parnassus » Fri Nov 11, 2005 9:39 pm

No. I haven't touched a television set since coming to Cambridge. Flip through the TV Guide - I'd be very surprised if you don't find it there.
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Postby eDan » Fri Nov 11, 2005 10:12 pm

It's not currently airing on terrestrial TV (not sure about satellite - UK Gold might well show it.) Blackadder Goes Forth was the fourth and last of the series, made in 1989, so I suspect many of the folk here are too young to remember the original airing, but as Vicky rightly points out, it is repeated regularly on the BBC.

The complete Blackadder works is available on DVD *adds to Christmas list*

Thanks Vicky for posting that quote. 15 years old it might be, but it's utterly timeless scriptwriting!
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Postby Thirteen-thirty-seven » Sat Nov 12, 2005 5:57 pm

I always buy a poppy (this year I bought three, but lost them all). I always keep the 2 minutes silence. I always try to remeber the day.

However, the day makes me very angry, because the bravest people of the First World War are not honoured. These are the people who were executed because they refused to fight. The conscientious objectors. These people died for their principles. They were executed for "cowardice". What coward willingly goes to their grave for their refusal to kill?

I admire the courage of the soldiers who died in the war. They believed they were giving their lives for freedom. This is a brave and noble thing. But it is even braver to die as a hated coward (even though the conscientious objectors of World War one were, in truth, heroes, that's how they were seen.)

There are white poppoes on sale which commemorate these men's sacrifice. I was going to get one this year, but I lost the order form.
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