Tuesday, 11 November 2008

Lest we Forget

This year there appears to have been a greater emphasis on Remembrance Day as it is 90 years since the official signing of the Treaty which put an end to the Great War. It has been a week of some very poignant articles both on TV and radio.
Although I had been brought up in Post War Britain, the wider reality of what it had all meant did not hit home until I was 12 years old and studying War poetry at school. The words of the following poem struck chords so deep within me and on reflection was possibly the first text which showed me the true power of the written word .


DULCE ET DECORUM EST

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-Nines 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 lime. . .
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.

Wilfred Owen

Back in August Laura and I went to Monk Bretton Cemetery to place birthday flowers on Eddie's grave and I stopped to investigate a headstone which was so obviously a War Memorial headstone. I stood in awe when I realised that A Shaw had enlisted in the Black Watch and had therefore fought alongside my Granddad Harry Hutchinson. It was a very humbling moment for me and I paused to honour them all.


This is a picture of Eddie who served in World War 2.
Watching Look North tonight I was further moved by an article by Radio Leeds presenter Andrew Edwards who went on a quest to find out more about his Great Uncle William Binnie who also served in the Black Watch . You can read the full article here

I want to close this brief post with the full version of the poem which contains the memorable words used at Remembrance Services. It was written by Laurence Binyon (1869-1943)
For The Fallen
With proud thanksgiving, a mother for her children,
England mourns for her dead across the sea.
Flesh of her flesh they were, spirit of her spirit,
Fallen in the cause of the free.

Solemn the drums thrill; Death august and royal
Sings sorrow up into immortal spheres,
There is music in the midst of desolation
And a glory that shines upon our tears.

They went with songs to the battle, they were young,
Straight of limb, true of eye, steady and aglow.
They were staunch to the end against odds uncounted;
They fell with their faces to the foe.

They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years contemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.

They mingle not with their laughing comrades again;
They sit no more at familiar tables of home;
They have no lot in our labour of the day-time;
They sleep beyond England's foam.

But where our desires are and our hopes profound,
Felt as a well-spring that is hidden from sight,
To the innermost heart of their own land they are known
As the stars are known to the Night;

As the stars that shall be bright when we are dust,
Moving in marches upon the heavenly plain;
As the stars that are starry in the time of our darkness,
To the end, to the end, they remain.

2 comments:

tash said...

It's been a lovely year of remembrance this year, if only it was as well publicised and documented every other year, not only on the 90th anniversary.

The war poets were quite something, but sadly it wasn't the war to end all wars, and as one of the last 3 veterans said, war is utterly useless, no one ever wins, people only get hurt. How true he is.

Lovely post, and sorry I haven't been here more often.

Primrose Corner said...

That was poignant. It's taken years for the full horror of what it must have been like to sink with me. Perhaps it's getting older, perhaps it's having children I don't know but I agree with what tash says - and in the end there aren't really any winners!