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 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.