Monday, 10 November 2014

It will be Remembrance Day

tomorrow. In Australia it is a quieter event than ANZAC Day. ANZAC Day is the day when the marches and dawn services are held around the country.
I have always tried to stop whatever I am doing at 11 in the morning on the 11th of November. I started doing that in my early teens - when we lived in the middle of a "soldier settlement" or farming community comprised of men who had been settled on tracts of poor farmland after the war was over. The government simply did not know what else to do with them.
"Remembering" has taken place in some surprising places. I once went to collect some trousers the Senior Cat was having taken up by a company called "Fletcher Jones and Staff".  Just before eleven in the morning there was a quiet announcement and everyone stopped for two minutes. If customers objected then they could leave but it was, I think, typical of the company at the time.
Fletcher Jones wanted to be a missionary in China but he stuttered and he could not learn to speak Chinese. Instead he went on to found a clothing company that, for many years, produced high quality Australian made clothing. What made his company different was that his staff all had shares in the company he built - and many of the first employees were returned service personnel.
I have been flying 20,000 feet above the ground when an announcement was made and silence requested. I was taking a group of ten and eleven year old students to an unrelated exhibition when one of the children said quietly to me, "It's nearly eleven o'clock." They all stopped filling out their activity sheets. Yes, I know the child who reminded me was more acutely aware than most of the horrors of war but he did tell me.
I stopped once in the university grounds as the cracked bell of a nearby church rang out. Afterwards one of the staff touched me briefly on the shoulder as he went past. He didn't say anything and, on that occasion, touching was appropriate. It was a gesture of thanks. He was a man who had seen more horrors than most.
There have been some comments that the sea of poppies at the Tower in London is a political gesture, that we should be remembering all war dead and not just those on "our" side. Some have said that the poppies should not have been put there. I disagree.
Yes, we need to remember all war dead. We also need to remember that were it not for the men and women whose memory those poppies represent we would not be living the sort of lives we are now living. I would probably not be here at all. Australia might not even be English speaking. The world would genuinely be a very different place - and it might not be a better one.
For that reason I will remember all war dead - and go on hoping for an end to conflict.


jeanfromcornwall said...

I watched the "Festival of Remembrance" which is at the Albert Hall every year, the Saturday before the 11th. A pair of teenagers brought a posy of poppies in, to place on the drum, for the service. They then said their words and I was surprised when I could'nt understand the boy - until I saw the subtitles, and realised he was German.

catdownunder said...

there should be more of that Jean!