Still re­mem­ber­ing with art and pop­pies, 100 years on

Western Morning News (Saturday) - - News -

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

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