Tuesday, 11 November 2008

Remembrance Day

At 11am, on the 11th day of the 11th month, Britain goes quiet for two minutes. In our office, those who were on their feet stopped and bowed their heads. Those sitting at computers stopped typing. No phones rang. The reason? To pay respects to Britain's war dead. This tradition began after the carnage of the First World War - the armistice was signed at 11am on the 11th of November, 1918.

The First World War seems very distant now. It is hard to think of the trenches and what they were like. Today, I spent the two minutes thinking of our generation and our children, wondering who will die in action in the name of our country. I hope that there will not be great wars in future, but who knows what the future will bring?

We can only hope that our soldiers do not kill and die in vain.


Billy said...

The green fields of france is a good one to play at times like this

"Well, how do you do, Private William McBride,
Do you mind if I sit down here by your graveside?
And rest for awhile in the warm summer sun,
I've been walking all day, and I'm nearly done.
And I see by your gravestone you were only 19
When you joined the glorious fallen in 1916,
Well, I hope you died quick and I hope you died clean
Or, Willie McBride, was it slow and obscene?

Did they Beat the drum slowly, did the play the pipes lowly?
Did the rifles fir o'er you as they lowered you down?
Did the bugles sound The Last Post in chorus?
Did the pipes play the Flowers of the Forest?

And did you leave a wife or a sweetheart behind
In some loyal heart is your memory enshrined?
And, though you died back in 1916,
To that loyal heart are you forever 19?
Or are you a stranger without even a name,
Forever enshrined behind some glass pane,
In an old photograph, torn and tattered and stained,
And fading to yellow in a brown leather frame?

The sun's shining down on these green fields of France;
The warm wind blows gently, and the red poppies dance.
The trenches have vanished long under the plow;
No gas and no barbed wire, no guns firing now.
But here in this graveyard that's still No Man's Land
The countless white crosses in mute witness stand
To man's blind indifference to his fellow man.
And a whole generation who were butchered and damned.

And I can't help but wonder, no Willie McBride,
Do all those who lie here know why they died?
Did you really believe them when they told you "The Cause?"
Did you really believe that this war would end wars?
Well the suffering, the sorrow, the glory, the shame
The killing, the dying, it was all done in vain,
For Willie McBride, it all happened again,
And again, and again, and again, and again"

Robert Craig said...

Another one for the goosebumps is Mothers, Daughters, Wives:

The first time it was fathers,
The last time it was sons
And in between your husbands
Marched away with drums and guns.
And you never thought to question.
You just went on with your lives.
Cause all they taught you who to be,
Was mothers, daughters, wives.

You can only just remember
The tears your mother shed
As they sat and read their papers
Through the lists and lists of dead.
And the gold frames held the photograghs
That mothers kissed each night.
And the door frames held the shocked
And silent strangers from the fight.

It was twenty-one years later,
With children of your own.
The trumpets sounded once again,
And the soldier boys were gone.
And you drove their trucks and made their guns
And tended to their wounds.
And at night you kissed their photographs
And prayed for safe returns.

And after it was over
You had to learn again
To be just wives and mothers,
When you'd done the work of men.
So you worked to help the needy
And you never trod on toes.
And the photos on the pianos
Struck a happy family pose.

Then your daughters grew to women
And your little boys to men.
And you prayed that you were dreaming
When the call came up again.
But you proudly smiled and held your tears
As they bravely waved goodbye.
And the photos on the mantel pieces
Always made you cry.

And now you're getting older
And in time the photos fade.
And in widowhood you sit back
And reflect on the parade.
Of the passing of your memories
As your daughters change their lives.
Seeing more to our existence
Than just mothers, daughters, wives.

And you believed them!

Billy said...

Another Sad one

"When I was a young man I carried my pack
And I lived the free life of a rover
From the Murrays green basin to the dusty outback
I waltzed my Matilda all over
Then in nineteen fifteen my country said Son
It's time to stop rambling 'cause there's work to be done
So they gave me a tin hat and they gave me a gun
And they sent me away to the war
And the band played Waltzing Matilda
As we sailed away from the quay
And amidst all the tears and the shouts and the cheers
We sailed off to Gallipoli

How well I remember that terrible day
How the blood stained the sand and the water
And how in that hell that they called Suvla Bay
We were butchered like lambs at the slaughter
Johnny Turk he was ready, he primed himself well
He chased us with bullets, he rained us with shells
And in five minutes flat he'd blown us all to hell
Nearly blew us right back to Australia
But the band played Waltzing Matilda
As we stopped to bury our slain
We buried ours and the Turks buried theirs
Then we started all over again

Now those that were left, well we tried to survive
In a mad world of blood, death and fire
And for ten weary weeks I kept myself alive
But around me the corpses piled higher
Then a big Turkish shell knocked me arse over tit
And when I woke up in my hospital bed
And saw what it had done, I wished I was dead
Never knew there were worse things than dying
For no more I'll go waltzing Matilda
All around the green bush far and near
For to hump tent and pegs, a man needs two legs
No more waltzing Matilda for me

So they collected the cripples, the wounded, the maimed
And they shipped us back home to Australia
The armless, the legless, the blind, the insane
Those proud wounded heroes of Suvla
And as our ship pulled into Circular Quay
I looked at the place where my legs used to be
And thank Christ there was nobody waiting for me
To grieve and to mourn and to pity
And the band played Waltzing Matilda
As they carried us down the gangway
But nobody cheered, they just stood and stared
Then turned all their faces away

And now every April I sit on my porch
And I watch the parade pass before me
And I watch my old comrades, how proudly they march
Reliving old dreams of past glory
And the old men march slowly, all bent, stiff and sore
The forgotten heroes from a forgotten war
And the young people ask, "What are they marching for?"
And I ask myself the same question
And the band plays Waltzing Matilda
And the old men answer to the call
But year after year their numbers get fewer
Some day no one will march there at all

Waltzing Matilda, Waltzing Matilda
Who'll come a waltzing Matilda with me
And their ghosts may be heard as you pass the Billabong
Who'll come-a-waltzing Matilda with me?

Rune said...

I'd like to chip in with the last episode of Blackadder Goes Forth. The realisation sets in that they're not going to make it back. It made it all the more poignant that it was a comedy.

I'd like to see some technology that can wipe out politicians at the top level on all sides as war becomes "inevitable". I can't believe that ordinary people want to fight on this scale.

I also believe that western governments would have difficulty conscripting people now. Too many people aren't scared of the machine now and would just say f**k off.

All of these men and women have my respect though and I'm grateful for their sacrifice.