Posts Tagged ‘Remembrance Day’

William Leefe Robinson

William Leefe Robinson

William Leefe Robinson, then aged 21, was the awarded the most prestigious Victoria Cross for shooting down a Zeppelin airship, the world’s first long-range bomber, used by Germany over southern England. The Zeppelins flew at a high altitude out of the reach of ground fire. And at first, they seemed impervious to air attack.

The blaze was so fierce even the framework of the Zeppelin disappeared.

A combination of explosive and incendiary bullets was the answer.

The blaze of the Zeppelin shot down by Robinson was so fierce even the framework of the Zeppelin disappeared.

William Robinson cheered by his fellow airmen

William Robinson (centre) was cheered by his fellow airmen the day after destroying the Zeppelin SL-11 over Cuffley, in Hertfordshire.

In April the following year, Robinson himself was shot down over France by the squadron let by Manfred von Richthofen, the famed Red Baron, and spent the rest of the conflict as a prisoner of war, making repeated but failed attempts at escape.

Tragically, like many young people, he died of influenza within a fortnight of returning home after the War.

Just one story from amongst millions. Lest we forget.

soldier

 

Hating war – arguing for a pacifist position, even one that is not utterly purely pacifist – does not mean we cannot weep for and celebrate those who fight wars on our behalf.

With the tragically costly conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq, Remembrance Sunday – just like Anzac Day in Australia and Memorial Day in the USA – has assumed a new significance, and a new enthusiasm from the young.

 

From left to right: Distinguished Service Cross, 1914-15 Star, British War Medal 1914-18, Victory Medal 1914-18, Medal for Military Valour, Mercantile Marine War Medal 1914-1918,

From left to right: Distinguished Service Cross, 1914-15 Star, British War Medal 1914-18, Victory Medal 1914-18, Medal for Military Valour, Mercantile Marine War Medal 1914-1918,

 

For ourselves, remembering a father who died at 46 worn out by terrifying six years of naval service, a cousin who endured tropical diseases for his entire life after incarceration in a Japanese Prisoner of War camp, a Grandfather who served in the trenches in World War 1 and another Grandfather who received the DSC for trawling up mines dropped by Zeppelins in Portsmouth Harbour, we have always paused for two minutes at the appointed hour, bought our poppy to wear in our lapel, and subscribed to war casualty charities.

In our view, despite that, we are convinced that the very best way to show our respect for those we commemorate is to state, unequivocally, the old an unarguable truth.

“War will continue until men refuse to fight.”

This list of current conflicts, worldwide, makes very depressing reading. Are we really doing the best we can?

Listen to any old soldier, and simultaneously, along with their sadness felt for their injured or fallen comrades, and their quiet pride in “a job well done”, you will almost always hear them explain how the horror of war was worse than anything they could have imagined. How they often felt they had more in common with the foot-soldiers opposing them than they did with their own leaders. And always, how anything must be tried, and done, before humankind responds to a crisis by turning to arms.

Even the most significant war leader in 20th century history, Winston Churchill, who through sheer force of will saved the world from fascism and rescued democracy in its darkest hour, remarked, “Jaw-jaw is always better than war-war.”

From their graves, the dead of countless wars cry out to us for attention. “Don’t do it again! Don’t do it again!”

If you are interested to purchase my collection of poems called Read Me – 71 Poems and 1 Story – just head here.

Anzac dead in captured Turkish trenches in Gallipoli

I wrote this poem remembering attending so many Remembrance Day services with my mother, whose husband, the father who I never knew, died at 46, a cheerful but essentially broken man, after six years of service in the Royal Navy..

I am very proud of this poem, both as a poem, in and of itself, and as an authentic expression of my feelings and some things I consider important.

I am largely a pacifist in my outlook, but I have great respect for those who put their lives on the line defending values I hold dear, and opposing tyranny.

It references not only those solemn services attended at memorials with my mother, but the many times since I have seen elderly people stand and pay their respects to the dead of both World Wars, and other wars.

Anzac DayThere is a wave of emotion sweeping Australia at the moment when Anzac day rolls around, with record numbers of people attending Dawn Services both around the country and in places overseas such as Papua New Guinea and Galipolli.

Increasingly, those people have young faces. The great grandchildren, grandchildren and children of those who were wounded, broken, and died. Why the sudden upsurge of interest? Perhaps younger people today look back to a past when the issues were simpler and convictions stronger.

I am also sure that the 39 Australian service people killed in Afghanistan since hostilities broke out there have something to do with it. The Americans and others have lost more people, of course, but those 39 lives are a grievous loss to a country with a population as small as Australia’s, just as the disproportionate sacrifice of the World War I diggers left a scar across the country that took generations to heal: the faces and stories of those brave young people killed in Afghanistan in recent years sure focuses the mind.

I am also reminded, on this solemn day, of the most important thing ever said about conflict, which is, of course:

“War will continue until men refuse to fight.”

If you are interested to purchase my collection of poems called Read Me – 71 Poems and 1 Story – just head here.

(Article re-published for Anzac Day 2013 and Remembrance Day 2014.)

Many bloggers were saluting Remembrance Day yesterday.

 

The poem's author's parents on their wedding day

The poem’s author’s parents on their wedding day

 

This rather beautiful poem is worthy of a wider audience. Give it a click.

Lest I Forget.

Verdun

 

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.

 

At the eleventh hour, of the eleventh day, of the eleventh month. Forever.

The least – the very least – we can do, is to remember.

Not just those who died – so many, so young – but also for those who survived, broken but still courageous.

For a grandfather trawling for mines in Portsmouth harbour, a moment from death, day after day, for years.

For a father guiding convoys across the icy Atlantic, a moment from death, day after day, for years.

For an uncle surviving being a Pathfinder pilot, a moment from death, day after day, for years.

For the cousin imprisoned in the Far East and wracked with tropical diseases ever after, a moment from death, day after day, for years.

It is passing wonderful that any of them remained to any extent sane, and went on to raise families, run businesses, report the news, go to church, help their neighbours.

Lives cut short. Lives forever compromised. And for the civilian dead. And for all who served. None came through unscathed.

Until we have a world without war, we will remember. All of them, on all sides. And even then, we will never forget.

 

Cenotaph