May pays re­spects

As we com­mem­o­rate the centenary of the end of the First World War, Remembrance and the red Flan­ders poppy are an in­te­gral part of our na­tional char­ac­ter. Poignant sen­ti­ments ex­pressed in Novem­ber 1918 are, for so many, sim­i­larly rel­e­vant to­day

The Courier & Advertiser (Angus and The Mearns Edition) - - NEWS - FLORA THOMP­SON

The prime min­is­ter quoted First World War po­etry while she thanked fallen troops for be­ing “staunch to the end against odds un­counted” as she paid her re­spects to mark the centenary of Armistice.

Theresa May is vis­it­ing war ceme­ter­ies in Bel­gium and France along­side French pres­i­dent Em­manuel Macron and Bel­gian Prime Min­is­ter Charles Michel.

Start­ing in Mons yes­ter­day, Mrs May and Mr Michel were es­corted through the St Sym­phorien Mil­i­tary Ceme­tery by Com­mon­wealth War Graves Com­mis­sion rep­re­sen­ta­tive Liz Sweet.

The ceme­tery was set up by the Ger­man army as a fi­nal rest­ing place for Bri­tish and Ger­man sol­diers killed at the Bat­tle of Mons.

The pair were greeted by a guard of hon­our from the Royal Reg­i­ment of Fusiliers and stood for the sound of The Last Post be­fore a minute’s si­lence.

Mrs May laid wreaths at the graves of Pri­vate John Parr of the Mid­dle­sex Reg­i­ment, who died on Au­gust 21 1914 – the first UK sol­dier to be killed in the con­flict – and the last, Pri­vate Ge­orge El­li­son of the Royal Ir­ish Lancers, who died on the Western Front on Novem­ber 11 1918, be­fore the Armistice came into ef­fect at 11am.

In the note left by the rest­ing place of Pri­vate Parr, Mrs May quoted a line of war­time po­etry – The Sol­dier writ­ten by Rupert Brooke.

She wrote: “There is in that rich earth a richer dust con­cealed.”

The son­net was writ­ten by Rupert Brooke, an of­fi­cer in the Royal Navy, while on leave at Christ­mas and formed part of a col­lec­tion of work en­ti­tled 1914 which was pub­lished in Jan­uary 1915.

Brooke never ex­pe­ri­enced front­line com­bat and died from blood poi­son­ing on April 23 1915 after be­ing bit­ten by a mos­quito while sail­ing to Gal­lipoli. He was buried on the is­land of Sky­ros.

At the grave of Pri­vate El­li­son, also in blue pen on a headed Down­ing Street card at­tached to the gar­land of pop­pies, Mrs May wrote: “They were staunch to the end against odds un­counted ... We will re­mem­ber them.”

This was from an­other poem writ­ten by Lau­rence Binyon and pub­lished in Septem­ber 1914 which is of­ten quoted in Remembrance Sun­day ser­vices.

Dur­ing the brief visit, she and Mr Michel then met Bri­tish and Bel­gian serv­ing mem­bers of the armed forces.

As she left she thanked or­gan­is­ers for what had been a mov­ing visit.

Yes­ter­day af­ter­noon she trav­elled to France and met Pres­i­dent Macron in Al­bert, the town in the heart of the Somme re­gion which suf­fered sig­nif­i­cant bom­bard­ment dur­ing the con­flict.

The lead­ers had a pri­vate meet­ing and a work­ing lunch be­fore de­part­ing for a wreath-lay­ing cer­e­mony at the nearby Thiep­val Me­mo­rial – the site which bears the names of more than 72,000 mem­bers of the armed forces who died in bat­tle and holds an an­nual com­mem­o­ra­tion for the Miss­ing of the Somme.

Mrs May said the visit would be a chance to re­flect on the time the coun­tries spent fight­ing side by side in Europe but also to look ahead to a “shared fu­ture, built on peace, pros­per­ity and friend­ship”.

They were staunch to the end against odds un­counted ... We will re­mem­ber them

At hame that nicht I minded o’ Those fallen in the fray; Thou­sands re­joic­ing, thou­sands more Are sor­row­ing to-day.

To those who lis­ten for a voice They never more shall hear, There’s agony in ev­ery shout,

A stab in ev­ery cheer.

As we com­mem­o­rate the 100th an­niver­sary of the Armistice to­mor­row, it is the un­spo­ken hope that our world will never suf­fer war on this scale ever again. How­ever, it is a stark fact of modern life that there are count­less con­flicts tak­ing place across the globe, many in­volv­ing our brave ser­vice­men and ser­vice­women.

Pop­pyscot­land came into be­ing in 1921 (then known as the Earl Haig Fund) with a com­mit­ment to pro­vid­ing lifechang­ing sup­port to the armed forces com­mu­nity. Ninety-seven years on, that need has not di­min­ished and the char­ity raises mil­lions of pounds each year in or­der to sup­port vet­er­ans through­out the coun­try.

In 1918, de­spite the hys­te­ria, mil­lions were left be­hind in the af­ter­math of the Great War, but it is Pop­pyscot­land’s on­go­ing quest to en­sure that all of our brave ser­vice­men and ser­vice­women do not suf­fer the same fate 100 years on.

The Dundee Law War me­mo­rial was of­fi­cially un­veiled on May 16 1925 and, to com­mem­o­rate the event, the Peo­ple’s Jour­nal pub­lished the Dundee War Me­mo­rial Sup­ple­ment, with more than 20 pages de­voted to The Great Me­mo­rial Roll of Dundee’s Glo­ri­ous Dead.

The Rev Har­court M David­son, VD (Vol­un­teer Of­fi­cers’ Dec­o­ra­tion) re­flected on “the lessons of sac­ri­fice” learned be­cause of the Great War, while re­flect­ing on the near-spir­i­tual qual­ity and nat­u­ral at­tributes of the Dundee Law, site of the city’s war me­mo­rial. On that hill the war me­mo­rial would stand as a bea­con of hope, love and sac­ri­fice – for­ever “the im­mor­tal mem­ory of 4,000 and more of our brave ones who loved us and gave them­selves for us”.

It was a ter­ri­ble toll of our best but “what have we gained by it?” At a time when “the Na­tion seems all wrong (and) split into sects, par­ties and fac­tions. Who will show us any good?” By learn­ing from those we hon­our, he an­swered, and in turn hon­our­ing their shin­ing virtues: “Brother­li­ness, courage, un­selfish­ness, dis­ci­pline.” Yet some gains were made and re­alised. There was a fresh un­der­stand­ing that solid, de­pend­able and healthy work­ing-class hous­ing was needed to be­gin to re­verse a de­plorable health record of a city sec­ond only to Glas­gow.

Plans were sub­mit­ted in 1918 and, un­der the pro­vi­sions of the Ad­di­son Act, a pro­gramme of slum clear­ance be­gan and work on the first mu­nic­i­pal hous­ing scheme in Scot­land com­menced at Lo­gie in Dundee in 1919 – more than 700 houses were built in a few years.

Sim­i­lar slow-but-sure im­prove­ments in med­i­cal health and so­cial wel­fare pro­vi­sion made a pos­i­tive con­tri­bu­tion to the lives of women and chil­dren more gen­er­ally.

“In 1918, de­spite the hys­te­ria, mil­lions were left be­hind in the af­ter­math of the Great War...

The gen­eral elec­tion of 1922 trans­formed the po­lit­i­cal map of Scot­land and pro­vided the elec­toral break­through for Labour across the coun­try dur­ing the 1920s – so much so that Labour formed two mi­nor­ity gov­ern­ments in 1924 and 1929. Much of the ground­work for this break­through was firmly laid dur­ing the po­lit­i­cal and so­cial up­heavals tak­ing place dur­ing and im­me­di­ately after the Great War, and the po­lit­i­cal and so­cial im­pact in Dundee was no less trans­for­ma­tive.

Eco­nomic de­pres­sion deep­ened after a short-lived post-war boom, and from 1921 on­wards ev­ery ma­jor in­dus­trial cen­tre in Scot­land suf­fered like­wise. With the jute in­dus­try con­tin­u­ally un­der pres­sure, Dundee’s econ­omy suf­fered dis­pro­por­tion­ately when com­pared to that of Scot­land as a whole.

The 1920s would prove to be a gloomy decade for Dundee and the 1930s would of­fer no respite. Recorded un­em­ploy­ment reached five per cent by the early 1930s and this did not in­clude those caught in a cy­cle of poverty and short-term em­ploy­ment.

Poet Hugh MacDiarmid sug­gested that had Dante been com­pelled to live in Dundee at that time he would have added “a sen­sa­tional new cir­cle to his In­ferno”. For many, the 1930s was sim­ply the Devil’s Decade.

Many might well have won­dered, as the Rev David­son de­bated: “What have we gained by it?”

A piper plays a lament in front of the names of the thou­sands of Bri­tish and Com­mon­wealth sol­diers who died in the First World War.

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