Still remembering with art and poppies, 100 years on
Remembrance Sunday has a special resonance in the South West. This region has sent so many off to war over the centuries, particularly so in the two world wars, but also in the more recent conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan. Far too many of those men and women did not come back.
Many families in the South West bear the scars, mental and physical. Others have memories of loved ones from previous generations who fought and died for our freedom and way of live.
There will be a special focus tomorrow on the end of the First World War: the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month in an 18 year is coming around again in a different century.
We have reached the 100th anniversary of Armistice Day that marked the end of the war that was supposed to end all others. It did not, and many point to the unequal settlement at the end of the 1914-18 war that sowed the seeds of a fractious and embittered Germany as a contributory factor leading to the rise of a terrible regime and another appalling war in which free nations fought against a fresh tyranny.
That is a reminder: in remembering the dead and their sacrifice we cannot forget that they were not only fighting for victory, they were battling for a last- ing peace. We all have a duty to keep that in mind and to strive to keep it alive – we all must work against division and hatred and their causes.
Remembrance is always a solemn affair. And while a part of that is recalling the price paid in bringing a war to an end, it is not at all about celebrating victory. The red poppy is not about glorifying war or militarism; it is about remembering loss and helping raise funds and awareness for those who still suffer.
We would do well to remember, too, that it was a military man, Earl Haig, who worked hard in peacetime for those who had suffered in war.
The scale of losses in the First World War were so terrible – more than 11% fatalities among the six million that the UK deployed to fight – and the conditions often so appalling that the Great War also produced great art. The words of Wilfred Owen and other war poets are still studied and repeated by children in schools today. It is fitting, too, that art is helping with remembrance today, including the Pages of the Sea project on South West beaches – it was on a Cornish cliff that Laurence Binyon wrote his famous lines, For the Fallen.
We will remember them, he promised. One hundred years on we still do.
On this day