Today is Remembrance Day in the UK. In America we’ve always called November 11 Veterans’ Day. Our family has tried to take a moment to remember the sacrifices of our families, friends, and others who have served or currently serve in the Armed Forces.
In Great Britain there are poppies everywhere you look these days. In the Market Square, the Train Station, the Cafes and elsewhere, young people in military uniforms accept donations for a synthetic poppy. People where poppies on their lapels in the days leading up to Remembrance Day, November 11.
Remembrance is right word for the attitude of the English towards veterans of the wars. I haven’t done a scientific study, but I would guess that there is a World War I monument in nearly every neighbourhood, village, town and city in the UK. They remember WWI–and as well they should. The mood was high in Europe in the early 20th century. Things were good for many, the Industrial Revolution was providing new technological advances, and people were experiencing many new things. When the war began in 1911 many thought it would be over quickly. This wasn’t the first time to people would make such a mistake. By the War’s conclusion in 1918, 5.1 Million Allied members were dead and 947,000 were British. All together, 8.5 Million were dead. Much of the optimism from just a decade before had vanished.
So why use the poppies to remember the Great War and all those since then? Poppies are native to Western Europe and they are prolific in areas where the earth has been disturbed. In the Napoleonic Wars, and the battles in Northern France and Flanders in 1914, the ground was transformed into bare land. Around the bodies of the soldier, blood red poppies grew–a poignant reminder of the stark realities all around.
Since 1921, the Royal British Legion has encouraged people to show their respect, and the Remembrance, by the wearing of the poppies. When we see the poppies let us Remember and to pray, and to do our part, to bring Peace–lasting Peace. “Now may the Lord of peace himself give you peace at all times in all ways. The Lord be with all of you.” 2 Thessalonians 3:16.
In Flanders Fields
by John McCrae
In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place, and in the sky,
The larks, still bravely singing, fly,
Scarce heard amid the guns below.
We are the dead; short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.
Take up our quarrel with the foe!
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high!
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.