Remembrance Day Services
LAST Saturday, November 11, people around Mansfield, Australia and the world paused for one minute to remember the fallen of World War One, and all wars since.
Why November 11 and why 11am on that day?
Historians describe that time as ‘when the guns fell silent on the Western front’, signalling the end of World War One.
The ceasefire went into effect at 11am Paris time on November 11, 1918 (‘the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month’), and marked victory for the Allies.
The document was signed in one of the carriages of the private train of Marshall Ferdinand Foch, the Allied Supreme Commander, on his private estate in Compiègne Forest.
There the carriage remained, a monument to the defeat of the Kaiser’s Germany, until June 22, 1940, when swastika-bedecked German staff cars bearing Adolf Hitler and other lead- ing Nazis, swept into the forest and, in that same carriage, demanded and received the surrender from France.
Of course, the signing of the armistice did not mean that all fighting ceased, and there are many tragic stories of soldiers who died after the war had officially ended.
Many artillery units continued to fire on German targets to avoid having to haul away their spare ammunition.
The Allies also wished to ensure that, should fighting restart, they would be in the most favourable position.
Consequently, there were 10,944 casualties including 2738 deaths on the last day of the war.
Augustin Trébuchon was the last Frenchman to die when he was shot on his way to tell fellow soldiers, who were attempting an assault across the Meuse River, that hot soup would be served after the ceasefire.
The final Canadian, and Commonwealth, soldier to die, Private George Lawrence Price, was shot and killed by a sniper while part of a force advancing into the town of Ville-sur-Haine, just two minutes before the armistice.
Finally, American Henry Gunther is generally recognised as the last soldier killed in action in World War I.
He was killed 60 seconds before the armistice came into force, while charging astonished German troops who were aware the Armistice was nearly upon them.
Though the war was over, men continued to die in large numbers as a result of injuries, including at least four from Mansfield.
Private W.P.H. Black of the Fourth Battalion died of injuries on December 4, 1918.
Sergeant John A. Cameron died in February, 1920 as did Sergeant S. Kennedy, both from wounds received in the war.
Also from Mansfield, Lieutenant John H. Pike died in April 1920 from his injuries.
Apart from the significance of the 11am moment of reflection, the other symbol of Remembrance Day is the red poppy.
The story goes that in the spring of 1915, shortly after losing a friend in Ypres, Canadian doctor Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae wrote a poem entitled ‘In Flanders Fields’.
The poem was inspired by the sight of vivid red poppies growing in the battle-scarred French fields.
After the First World War, the poppy was adopted as a symbol of remembrance.
Lest We Forget.
ST MARY’S REMEMBERS: St Mary’s Primary School congregated in the Mercy Centre for prayers, the Ode of Remembrance, the Last Post and a singing of the national anthem during the school’s annual Remembrance Day service last Friday.
THOUGHTS AND PRAYERS: (From left) Sandra O’Brien, Tara Murray (reading), Will Hotton and Charlotte Atherton address the whole school.