Sunday, November 09, 2008

Best laid plans.


Usually I watch the Remembrance ceremony at Whitehall, on TV, but this year I yearned to be in the fresh air with the sea and the sky and the wind; but not the torrential rain that rudely shoved the sun out of the equation. So I contemplated in my office; much less emotional and just as valid. Really Tuesday is the day, when at the eleventh hour on the eleventh day of the eleventh month the Armistice was declared – 90 years ago. Tragically many men, on both sides were killed after that time, as the news didn’t get through to the front.

Shirley Williams was saying on the Andrew Marr show that the horrifying statistics of WW1 were more or less shoved under the carpet and when her mother, Vera Brittain (Testament of Youth) returned from three years nursing at the front to her university, she was told she had wasted three years. So it makes sense to me that it is now remembered in all its ghastliness - not glory.

Dan Snow, the presenter and historian and son of Peter Snow, came across letters sent by his great grandfather to his wife in WW1. He decided to follow in his relative’s footsteps which took him to the Somme. His great grandfather was Sir Thomas D’Olyly Snow and - Dan was shocked to discover - was a general who sent thousands of men to their deaths. Whilst standing in the chateau where his grandfather stayed during the combat, he asked a fellow historian if he blamed General Snow. The historian replied that he did and also a member of his own family had been killed in the battle. To make things worse Dan’s great grandfather tried to pass the blame for the carnage onto the men themselves.

Dan told The Observer

That is the darkest day in British military history, arguably British history, and my great-grandpa was one of the key guys in the planning and execution of that attack,'

(1893-1918) Wilfred Owen “Doomed Youth"

What passing-bells for these who die as cattle?
--Only the monstrous anger of the guns.
Only the stuttering rifles' rapid rattle
Can patter out their hasty orisons.
No mockeries for them from prayers or bells,
Nor any voice of mourning save the choirs,-
The shrill, demented choirs of wailing shells;
And bugles calling for them from sad shires.

What candles may be held to speed them all?
Not in the hands of boys, but in their eyes
Shall shine the holy glimmers of goodbyes.
The pallor of girls' brows shall be their pall;
Their flowers the tenderness of silent minds,
And each slow dusk a drawing-down of blinds.

‘Lest we forget’ all the men and women who lost their lives in the wars.


john.g. said...

Lest we forget!

colleen said...

Is that what we call Veterans Day here? It's also on Tuesday, but for Veterans of all wars. My dad was a WWII vet. Michele sent me today.

PI said...

John.g: good you made it:)

Coleen: I think it must be the same or similar - the idea behind it anyway. Well done your dad!

R. Sherman said...

If I recall correctly, the Somme was where all of the "Kitchner Battalions" got their first go at the Germans and was pretty much a disaster. Lyn MacDonald wrote a fabulous book about it, which I read some years ago. It's worth your time if you're so inclined.


Jade of the Jungle said...

I've posted about this today too. I really hope the world never forgets.

J x

sablonneuse said...

Remembrance Sunday is always a moving ceremony but in France November 11th is a Jour de FeriƩ and every town and village holds its own memorial. A wreath is laid, there is a procession to the cemetary and then it's back to the mairie for a vin d'honneur. My children bought us poppies on a recent trip to England but the French wear Cornflower badges.

OldOldLady Of The Hills said...

A Day Of Rememberence. I believe our day here is somewhat based on your day there....But, I think the idea of remembering the Day and Hour, makes it all far more meaningful. The Great War was far worse than any of us know, don't you think?
I love that Poem, Pat.

PI said...

Randall: I'll see if MTL knows it. It's more up his street and is the sort of thing he reads all the time.

Jade: I'll be along to read it soon.

Sandy: oddly MTL told me he used to look out of his bedroom window at his grandfather's farm in Invergordon and the field was red and blue with poppies and cornflowers.

Naomi: One of the commenters said you had a veteran's Day - but for all wars. I'm glad you like the poem: one by Wilfred Owen about being gassed was so awful I felt I couldn't use it but of course that was what it was like - too awful for words.

Daphne Wayne-Bough said...

But they don't learn from it do they? Brave of Dan Snow to dig that deep and publicly reveal his ancestor's folly.

PI said...

Daphne: i think it's the journalist in him. I think - as bloggers - we can relate to invading our own privacy for a good story. MTL despairs at times:)

Guyana-Gyal said...

My comment's lost, I think. I was saying it's interesting how we feel ashamed of the deeds of our ancestors although we had NOTHING to do with those actions.

PI said...

GG: when one looks back on Colonialism and the Empire one just has to hope we've learnt better and move on.
I now have my 2 pennies:)

Guyana-Gyal said...

Ah, I see what you mean Pat, it's all about learning from the lessons of the past.

PI said...

GG: you have to laugh - I had forgotten what I meant when I saw your comment but now I see what I meant.:)Two pennies for MTL's shoes.