Remembrance Sunday 2012

Today, at 11 o’clock, the country will come to a stop for two minutes of silence and prayer for those who have died in two world wars and subsequent armed conflicts. It will be a moment of sadness for some, of awkwardness for others. It is the only time in the year when we make a collective act of remembrance, and its importance grows greater the further we are from the events which prompted it.

When I was a child, the effects of World War I were still plain to see: the elderly men who coughed and wheezed and were missing limbs; the great-uncle who still shook uncontrollably at times; the elderly maiden ladies who lived lives of genteel poverty, their fiançés killed in France or Flanders. I grew up listening to the men and women of my parents’ generation talking quite naturally about the events of World War II. Indeed, even today, I have only to open one of my father’s poetry books to see the flowers he picked in the Western Desert, the bloodstain where he was wounded, and the small black and white photographs of people and places that to me are only names, if that. For my nieces, even that tenuous thread is broken. It is all one ‘with yesterday’s seven thousand years’.

We need to remember because if we forget we shall forget why freedom matters, why decency matters, why some things are worth fighting for, however much we may shrink from the idea of violence. So, we pray today not in any triumphalist spirit, but gratefully, humbly, and with the hope that we may learn the lessons of history at last.


5 thoughts on “Remembrance Sunday 2012”

  1. One of the things that moves me most on Remembrance Sunday, is the muffling of church bells. Somewhere just about now in every working bell tower in England, someone, often an elderly man is climbing into the bell loft and putting padding on every bell. Then later in the day, he’ll make the same journey, often up a rickety ladder to remove the padding until next year. If you don’t know of this custom, listen out this morning as the bells announce the silence and note this annual tribute.

  2. I was a bell ringer and remember that very well.
    I find this day very poignant and moving especially as 52 of our servicemen have been killed this year someone’s son/daughter fighting for their Country. They shall not grow old as we that are left grow old but if only they had had the chance. We will remember them.

  3. Beautifully put.
    Sadly, our near 90 Ted , a war hero of Burma, had to be hidden from all evidence . The memories of lost men under his command haunt him to tears.
    Our remembrance service took place at table .

  4. I agree with you concerning the way time, as it moves on, makes certain memories more poignant and vivid. But this is mainly true for those who have lived through the events, or in their immediate aftermath. We need to remember the fallen of the 2 world wars because there are fewer and fewer people left to give visible witness to them, so these horrific wars become just another chapter in history, from which little is being learned today. The real danger for the future is that history is increasingly seen as an optional extra in schools, or else people’s school years are so disrupted by change of one kind or another that there is little sense of context or continuity in which they might place themselves historically. Having a sense of history, and of belonging historically to the society we inhabit, is how we make sense of the past, so that these wars do not prove to have been fruitless. History is a vital component of education, every bit as important as science. In fact, as we have seen in the years since the 2 great wars, science without a proper sense of history poses one of the greatest threats to human survival, given our propensity for violence linked to power and, sadly, religion.

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