November, 11th 2018 - Remembrance Sunday
Remembrance Sunday 1918 -2018
"They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning,
We will remember them".
This year, across the world, millions gathered to mark the centenary of the armistice that ended fighting along a Western Front that stretched from Pfetterhouse on the Swiss border to Nieuwpoort, on the Belgian channel coast.
Earlier in the week, on the lawn outside St Mary’s Chapel, Weldam, Lub Gringhuis constructed a Garden of Remembrance. A simple wooden cross, styled on the grave markers that once dotted the Western Front, from which spread 100 small white crosses, each bearing a simple red poppy.
On Sunday morning, under a grey sky and a light drizzle, ninety people, of many nationalities and ethnicities, gathered before the crosses to hear our chaplain, Canon Brian Rodford begin the Remembrance Sunday Service. Philippa te West read the poem, ‘The ‘Wound in Time’, written for the occasion by the Poet Laureate, Carol Ann Duffy. After which, the visiting choir, The Veluwse Cantorij, led the way into the chapel, where the rest of the service was held.
With angelic choral music, silver noted trumpet calls and traditional, solemn readings by Arthur Cass, the service was memorable. Many an eye was discretely dabbed dry.
For me personally, it was that moment when, during the Last Post, contrary to custom, Canon Rodford laid the flags of the Netherlands and the United Kingdom onto the altar carpet. There the two national symbols lay, crumpled, discarded, so reminiscent of the tens of thousands of bodies that once lay scattered across the Western Front.
Sadly, this year was the first time The ‘Bond of Wapenbroeders were not able to mount the Honour Guard. The Dutch veterans, with numbers depleted by age and infirmity, retire
My personal thoughts regarding Remembrance Sunday - 100 Years on.
While sitting in the sun, at the far end of our peaceful garden, handling my automatic jigsaw and cutting a hundred Remembrance Crosses for use in this years’ Remembrance Sunday, my mind floated away over the meaning of the occasion we observe every year at St. Mary’s. A day "to commemorate the contribution of British and Commonwealth military and civilian servicemen and women in the two World Wars and later conflicts. This time, on November 11th, we are remembering one hundred years of Armistice.
Preparing the crosses, I thought of all the casualties in WW1 - “the war to end all wars" (described by H.G. Wells. Wells, like many idealists of his time, he hoped that the sheer destructiveness of the First World War, unprecedented in its time, would persuade mankind to abandon war as a means of solving political disputes > Wikipedia). But did it?
Now we know that these expectations or hopes did not really materialize, as just over 20 years later WW2 broke out. Some five years after the capitulation of Nazi-Germany, the Korean War (1950-1953) started, quickly followed by the Vietnam war (1954–75) and in more recent years the Afghanistan and Iraq wars. Also, numerous other conflicts that did not get so much attention in other parts of the world smouldered on.
In Europe during the 'Cold War', two opposing Blocs were quite hostile towards each other. NATO and Warsaw Pact were on several occasions close to an armed conflict as well. In a few instances only minutes apart from a nuclear war breakout. Thanks to some bright political and military leaders, this never occurred, so far.
When looking at our crosses, there is a white face, with the ‘Poppy’ and the text “In Remembrance” in which we honour all the lives that have been lost to provide others and us all with freedom and the ability to live in peace. In these crosses, I also remember many Dutch Armed Forces personnel that were killed during the course of their duty home and abroad.
But there is also another side to our Weldam ‘Poppy’, which appears brownish and bears no text. To me, this side symbolises numerous unknown collateral victims that fell during all the conflicts that occurred since November 11th 1918.
© Lub Gringhuis
(for full version see Magazine November 2018 - p.9