Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Forget them not

Today is Remembrance Day. 91 years since the end of the Great War. 70 years since the beginning of World War 2. 75 years since the Shrine of Remembrance in Melbourne was completed.

Suffer dishonour and disgrace but never resort to arms. Be bullied, be outraged, be killed but do not kill

(Wilfred Owen - letter to his mother May 1917)

Merry it was to laugh there
Where death becomes absurd and life absurder
For power was on us as we slashed bones bare
Not to feel sickness or remorse of murder

(Wilfred Owen - Apologia Pro Poemate Meo 1917)

You cheering crowds who roar and cry
As soldiers on the way pass by
Sneak home and pray you never know
Where youth and laughter go
(Siegfried Sassoon)

Come on you sons of b**ches! Do you want to live forever?

(Attributed to Gunnery Sergeant Dan Daly, 6th Marine Regiment, Marine Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division, when he and his men were besieged, outnumbered and pinned down in the Battle of Belleu Wood, 1918)

I have always been appalled by war. But it is more complex than just being pro-peace or anti-violence. History shows us that sometimes war is necessary. Sometimes it is inevitable. To say that is not to endorse violence or the killing fields which inevitably result. At other times war is the result of man's folly, greed, egotism or stupidity.

I have found that since having a son, my emotions about war have become a bit more personal. There is a possibility, however remote, that my son could, at some point in his life, be involved in fighting a war.

This morning I explained to my daughter about Remembrance Day. She asked me why Australians would travel all the way to Europe to fight. I said that when you believe in something no distance is too far to travel.

The Shrine of Remembrance is the biggest memorial shrine in Australia. It was built between 1928 and 1934. Only 6 months were needed to raise the funds for its construction. It was a controversial building. Many people wanted a cenotaph style structure. Still others wanted the money to be devoted to care for the war injured and their families.

So why such a monument. This is explained by Professor Bruce Scates who has just written a history of the Shrine. He says that unlike the US, which repatriated its war dead, and the English, who could visit her graves in France, the vast majority of Australians could never visit northern France. Victorians (who lost 1 in 5 people who went to WW1) needed somewhere to go to remember and reflect on their losses.

I know not with what weapons World War III will be fought but World War IV will be fought with sticks and stones

(Albert Einstein)

(Images Real War Photos and quotes from


brismod said...

A lovely post on this day to remember...

debra@dustjacket said...

Good post for today. I found that an interesting quote from A.E.

re your comment, made me laugh.

Engracia said...

A truly moving post, I studied WWI at highschool and of course the war poets. I vividly remember how as a 16 year old I cried when my teacher read us their poems. I have 2 little boys and everytime I see news items of the fighting in Iraq and Afgahnistan, I pray that my boys will never have to put their lives on the line like many brave soldiers do. Lest we forget.

Jacqueline @ HOME said...

I really do think that we must remember what our soldiers go through for us, in the past and in the present.
There is always a ceremony on the saturday before at The Albert Hall in London. The part that is so poignant is when millions of poppy petals fall from the ceiling while there is a minutes silence. It is a petal for every serviceman who died.
I had also never thought about the people in countries far away who can't visit the graves and memorials in Europe. Thanks for the interesting and informative post, Jane, and for remembering. XXXX

Mise said...

Well said, Jane. Seeing the monuments reminds me of something Julian Barnes wrote (I think of WW1) that stayed with me: that it seems incongruous that the soldiers should be remembered with such pomp and grandeur when they had been let go so lightly.

Unknown said...

This is a beautiful post. The picture of the poppies is gorgeous and vivid and contrasts so distictly with the black & white photo of them men fightin. That alone says it all. The thought of war makes me shudder. I have immense respect for the people who go out and fight for their country. I don't have children, Jane, so I can only imagine howyou must feel at the even remote possibility that youe cchild could end up fighting in a war. My prayers for this never to happen.

Thank you for talking about Remembrance Day. I didn't know about it. It's really great that you have a day to remember the people who have fought for Australia.
A truly lovely post, Jane.


Barbara said...

Such a nice posting to remember our veterans! Thank you for being so thoughtful.

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