Friday, November 11, 2005

Remembrance Day

I should be wearing a little red fuzzy plastic stylized poppy on my sweater today, but I have never seen one here in the US although my husband, the American, says he used to wear poppies as a child. When I was a kid in England, a few weeks before Remembrance Day people with trays of poppies and donation boxes would appear, and my mum, me and whichever siblings were along would put our sixpences in the box and get our own poppies to wear, in remembrance. In the 60s, they were made of thick felt, with a two part center--a green bit and a black bit--held together with a straight pin.

And when we moved to Canada, the poppies were there too, and we learned by heart the poem by Canadian Lt-Gen John McCrae, In Flanders Field. He wrote it on May 3, 1915, during the second Battle of Ypres, the day after a good friend of his had been killed--blown to bits by artillery fire.
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.

At 11:00am on the 11th day of the 11th month in 1918, after more than four years of fighting, fighting ceased on the Western Front as set out in the armistice between Germany and the Allies. In the UK, and the other Allied countries, November 11 is known as Remembrance Day which I think--my own personal opinion--is more inclusive than Veterans' Day of all the people who were and are involved by choice-- or not-- in wars.

My maternal grandfather was in the British Merchant Marine for many years, and sailed the North Atlantic in supplies convoys in WWII. My mother and my grandmother stayed behind in the port city of Plymouth, England which was heavily bombed and nearly destroyed during The Blitz.

Where have all the soldiers gone?
Long time passing
Where have all the soldiers gone?
Long time ago
Where have all the soldiers gone?
Gone to graveyards every one
When will they ever learn?
When will they ever learn?

Pete Seeger

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