Tag Archive: remembrance


888,246

That is British and Colonial service men who lost their lives during World War I. That does not include civilian casualties, nor does it include the Americans, Germans, Russians, French, Belgians, Italians, Japanese, Arabs or Turks to name but a few.

We visited the Tower of London poppies which were still being planted out. There is more information on this link. The poppies have long since sold out.

There has been some controversy between those who see this art work as beautifully poignant and a way of marking our sorrow at the loss of so much human life and those who think that the work does not go far enough in recognising the horror and brutality of war. For the latter, the work is too tame: where are the skulls, the broken bodies, the dismembered limbs, the disfigured lives? They may have a point – somewhere we need to be honest about the terrible suffering that was, and is, real human experience. In that respect, this art installation is no more than a start.

However, judging by the huge crowds that were quiet and very orderly, I would say that the experience of seeing even this drop in the ocean was thought-provoking for many.

Many a memorial has the phrase “Lest we forget”.

Lest we forget their names.

Lest we forget how terrible war is.

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New every morning are your mercies, O Lord, and you renew your blessing to us each day. Help us to remember your goodness and love towards all human kind. As we remember your mercy, help us to strive for peace in our thoughts and words, in our actions and our lives, in our country and in all the world. We pray in the power of your good and holy Spirit, in the name of Jesus Christ, the Lord of Lords and the Prince of peace. Amen.

Remembrance

November is a month of Remembering. In the National Calendar we have Remebrance Sunday and Armstice Day. At 11 O’clock in the morning many people will stop what they are doing and fall silent for two minutes. Some of them will have the traditional Act of Remembrance too.

In the Church’s calendar we have All Saints’ Day (!st November) and All Souls’ Day (2nd November). Both of these commemorations invite us to remember people we have known and who have died. There is much overlap between these two days but the emphasis for All Souls’ Day is on people whom we have known personally, perhaps close family members who have died recently.

It is coincidentally the month when a couple of members of my family died – many years ago now. The following poem is popular at funerals and I include it because it is helpful. We want to remember those whom we have loved – that is good, I want, in due course to be remembered fondly. Here we have permission from a loved one to forget.

Remember by Christina Rossetti

Remember me when I am gone away,
Gone far away into the silent land;
When you can no more hold me by the hand,
Nor I half turn to go yet turning stay.
Remember me when no more day by day
You tell me of our future that you planned:
Only remember me; you understand
It will be late to counsel then or pray.
Yet if you should forget me for a while
And afterwards remember, do not grieve:
For if the darkness and corruption leave
A vestige of the thoughts that once I had,
Better by far you should forget and smile
Than that you should remember and be sad.

    

 

I know that about England…

… was my thought when I turned to page 6. Been there several times, done that, heard the bells (once) and remember fondly the people who lived not so far away.

This book “I never knew that about England” (illustrated edition) has another feature that also drew my approval: the counties. No metropolitan boroughs or new-fangled unitary authorities in the chapter headings – which one may take or leave. However, there is Middlesex (not London) starting on page 183 so we’re off to a good start. I can’t claim to be an expert reviewer but I noted with a little satisfaction that I have visited all bar 6 of the 39 counties – and my total includes all of them if one does not insist on having stayed at least one night in the county somewhere. The reason given for following a county-based framework for the book (and the “traditional” ones at that) is that they are based on natural boundaries and still “inspire loyalty”.

Having glanced at the book, I suppose I ought to read a bit of it and decide whether it is any good after all that. The first thing to note is that Mr Winn does not attempt to include central London on the grounds that it “would make a book in itself”. The second thing to note is that this book is not a comprehensive guide – it is intended to highlight people and places that are not at the top of the list of what you might already know.

And to be fair, there is much in the book that is new to me. I think I already knew that the composer Ralph Vaughn Williams waw born in Down Ampney – I didn’t realise that that was near Cirencester in Gloucestershire. Nor did I realise that the author of Thomas the Tank Engine stories lived in Rodborough near Stroud. I had heard about the Torrey Canyon tanker disaster in Cornwall but had not realised that Lizard Village is the only mainland British Village south of 50° N. I have heard of Frank Hornby manufacturer of model railways but discover that he was born in Liverpool (in this book decidedly in Lancashire, not Merseyside!).

Then in Yorkshire, we are told of Cundall, which is described as a Thankful Village. I think I have mentioned these before elsewhere. They are a handful of places where they do not have a war memorial. No, not because they are staunchly pacifist or making a particular political point. War memorials were erected in memory of those who lost their lives in the first and second World Wars. In the Thankful Villages no memorial was put up because all their sons came back. I find it moving, to say the least, that there are only a couple of dozen of them. They are listed on page 321 in the book.

In this season of Remembrance, we honour the memory of “the fallen”, but let’s also take a leaf out of these villages’ book and be grateful for those who do come back – and do right by them too.

Meanwhile in Middlesex, my home county, we note that the “territory of the middle Saxons” is the second smallest English county (by area). But we do not learn much else. I could tell you that London’s first airport was at Hounslow Heath (before relocating to Croydon) for instance. I wonder if it is assumed that everything else is pretty much well known – but under a London heading. Did you know that Twickenham Rugby Ground (and RFU headquarters) is actually in Whitton (both in Middlesex)? Or that Hampton Court (recently glimpsed as the backdrop for road cycling during the 2012 Olympics) is in Middlesex? Or that the inventor Trevor Baylis lived on an island on the Middlesex side of the River Thames? Or that the baseline for Ordinance Survey maps was first laid out on Hounslow Heath? Or maybe you did. I just felt a bit shortchanged there.

Having said that, I expect we could all pick holes on behalf of our home and/or favourite county. Overall this is a fair coffee table book – not a book of reference. Three stars or 6/10.

“I never knew that about England” by Christopher Winn, illustrations by Mai Osawa, published by Ebury Press, 2008

or was it the third? I think it depends on which direction along the A46 you’re travelling. Anyway, it was a last-minute, almost last-second decision to follow the brown tourist sign that said “Air Museum” thereby making a detour on our journey. “It’s not far is it?” I was asked. “No,” I replied “I saw it close by on the map” (not mentioning that I had glanced at the map the day before and wasn’t 100% certain.) I wanted to break the long journey and this looked hopeful.

So that is how we came to visit the Newark Air Museum in Nottinghamshire.view of hangar 1 For one adult and one child it cost us £12.10 including gift-aid and two little vouchers to spend in the cafe. Entering through the shop was a bit unusual (you did “exit through the gift shop” too).

I got the impression that the place was run by willing volunteers. Yes, it was neat and tidy, the planes were laid out with plenty of space and the risk assessments had clearly been done. Among the things it lacked (which I did not miss) was a proliferation of shiny advertising, primary-coloured displays and relentless references to sponsors and many and varied retail opportunities. It did feel “tired” in places but I’m not sure if that was due to the gloomy sky overhead or that many of the exhibits were in need of refurbishment – or may be they were simply presented “as is” and what you saw is what you get when decades old aircraft are left lying outside for years at a time.

The cafe was of the “cuppa and a plate of sandwiches” variety and, as it was what it “said on the tin”, I’m not complaining. The chain mail curtain did its job of keeping the wasps out.

One of my favourite aeroplanes is the Vulcan bomber. Now, I am an almost-pacifist and hate the thought of dropping bombs on anyone. However, the raw power of its engines feels exciting and its delta-wing shape has an attraction to rival that of Concorde. I am not particularly keen on machines (don’t ask me to tell the difference in make between one car and another) but there is a kind of beauty in those noisy brutes. And, yes, I do understand that there are prettier and worthier topics to wax lyrical about.

Later, seeing an old BEA (British European Airways) plane reminded me of holidays as a child in the channel islands. We flew there in a Viscount, or was it a Vanguard, and I remember being told that those ‘planes were originally built during World War II. Then they were used in combat and were better known as Wellington bombers. A design used in war to drop bombs was turned in peace time to carrying holiday-makers. The phrase turning “swords into ploughshares” (Isaiah chapter 2 verse 4; Micah chapter 4 verse 3) comes to mind. That is not exactly what the museum was about (it included a number of civilian aircraft among its displays) but it went someway towards it. What used to be part of Bomber Command is now a place of remembrance and education; a celebration of human ingenuity, engineering, perseverance and courage; a reminder of the cost of war.

This is the season that marks the anniversary of the Battle of Britain which began in August 1941. September 15th is Battle of Britain Day but few people seem to notice. To be fair, I would probably not have given it a second thought until I visited a museum in Kent which listed all of the allied pilots who flew in that Battle. It really struck home that the “Few” really were a few: all their names could fit on the one wall. It made me wonder and it made me feel sad. And perhaps it was not tiredness that I noticed at the Air Museum the other week. Perhaps it was regret, sadness or the like for the lives lost in battle, for the lives cut short, for lives not lived.

More ploughshares please.

inside hangar one  Vulvan bomber

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