Poppies, Remembrance and Reflections.

I mentioned yesterday that my little boy was suffering over an essay he had to write. Well, he was grateful for me sitting down to help him (shortly after helping his big sister with her Compound Interest homeword) and, I’m glad to say that the end result of his labours was good. Mind you, I’m his dad, so I would think that.

However, it did get me thinking.

Some of the 2,650 graves at Arras.

Some of the 2,650 graves at Arras.

I’ve always been interested in war and history. I well remember a friend of a friend at school who sneered at me because I thought most of the answers to life could be found in books. This is going back a while. In fact, all the way to the 1970s. There were no computers in homes in those days, no internet, and no emails. Yet this complete cretin believed that there was nothing useful to be gained by reading and learning about all the mistakes made by people in the past. I didn’t bother to extend my acquaintance with him.

From a very early age I remember being angry that the act of Remembrance was no longer held at the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month. To me, it seemed cruelly ironic that the fact that we in Britain could hold our act of Remembrance at all was entirely due to those being remembered. And yet it was considered too costly to perform that act on a weekday. Cheaper and therefore better to hold it on a Sunday.

When I was a youngster in the sixties and seventies, I would always try to find a quiet place at eleven o’clock where I could stand and consider those who died so young. Friends used to be quite scornful, but I didn’t care. I had begun to study history for my own satisfaction when I was nine or so and commuting to Elmhurst School in South Croydon. I used to read books on any subject, but the First World War was favourite. And when I’d completed Paschendaele and The Somme, I found a copy of Basil Liddell Hart’s history of the First World War. That led to his analysis of the Second World War, and many books on the desert campaigns, on Stalingrad and the Russian Front and other theatres. Then I grew more interested in the Colonial wars and the great generals such as Garnet Wolseley.

I am very glad to see that my little son, after reading up about the Great War and about the Poppy Appeal and all the good that the Haig Trust achieves, summarised his essay by saying that he was proud to wear a poppy out of respect for all the soldiers who died in those wars.

The Poitiers memorial

The Poitiers memorial

Now, I need to add a couple of riders. First, a serious note. When in France this summer, I managed to visit the battle site of Poitiers. Here I discovered a wonderful memorial. Poitiers, for those who don’t know it, was a terrible battle, with many thousands killed, but in the end it was the beginning of a disastrous period for France. The English won the battle and even captured the French King. Routiers, which basically means brigands and murderers, ravaged the land while the French king had a jolly time in England. Yes, I mean that. He did. Poitiers saw the slaughter of many of the members of the French nobility. And yet the memorial mentioned and honoured the dead of the French, Gascon and English armies. In death, all were equal, just as they were in the war cemeteries of the Somme or Tobruk.

And the second little tale?

Well, this is a little more humorous.

The field of blood poppies in the moat at the Tower of London

The field of blood poppies in the moat at the Tower of London

A few weeks ago my brothers took me and my father to London. We visited several sites, but finished with a look at the field of poppies at the Tower of London. It was a truly stunning, touching and remarkable display and capped a marvellous day for the Jecks brothers and père. But afterwards, we took a taxi to London Bridge station. There, as we struggled to remove our father’s wheelchair (he is quite old, you realise), the driver point blank refused to accept any money. Not any tip – any money at all. We were surprised, and enormously glad to accept this kind fellow’s generosity. However, on the train we did muse over the reason for his act.

My innocent brother, one up from me, suddenly hit upon the explanation. He pointed out that our father was wearing his tie (yes, Chalky, the REME one), and clearly the taxi driver had thought the old man must be a veteran, and was thanking him in his own way. Which was touching. It’s wonderful to think that the man was kind, respectful, perhaps grateful enough, to want to give our father a lift for free, and to let us all in for free too.

However, my brothers (I am the youngest, and therefore the most perspicacious, intelligent and good-looking as well as sharpest) were less pleased when I pointed out that the man could well have thought we were all veterans. They didn’t like the implication that they might look a little – well, ancient.

I hope you have a peaceful, quiet and safe 11th November. I hope you will, like me, wear a poppy with pride, and with gratitude to all those who lost their lives, who were injured, or who participated and came home at last safely. I will honour them all at eleven o’clock. I hope you will too.

Clive, Alan, Keith and me with our father, Peter. Don't they look old?

Clive, Alan, Keith and me with our father, Peter. Don’t they look old?

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Comments
10 Responses to “Poppies, Remembrance and Reflections.”
  1. Me Too says:

    Thank you for posting.

    Like

  2. Ralph Spurrier says:

    Good piece, Mike. And just to get a little political for a moment: I find it hypocritical in the extreme that our political leaders having paraded at the Cenotaph and laid wreaths in memory of all those who have died for this country to protect the laws and ways of this country should, on the very next day, vote to hand over some of those laws to the beurocratic Tower of Babel that is Brussels.
    My wife and I will be at the Tower this very day (11/11/14) at the appointed time.
    All the best

    Like

  3. Jack Eason says:

    Reblogged this on Have We Had Help? and commented:
    A few thoughts from Michael on Rememberance Day.

    Lest We Forget

    Like

  4. D.G.Kaye says:

    Lovely post. Thanks for sharing and reminding. :)

    Like

  5. geraldine says:

    Lovely post, Mike. Thank you.

    Like

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