Remembrance

We’ll soon be marking the end of The Great War, also called “The war to end all wars” and only later renamed The First World War, when that hope of the lesson taught by The Great War proved to have been illusory.
It is fitting that this, the 100th anniversary of the end of that war falls on Sunday 11th November. The guns fell silent at 11 o’clock on 11th November 1918.
This anniversary is still solemnly marked in the countries that were part of the horror that still resonates in the collective memory of the nations involved. Finland at the time was recovering from its own bitter civil war which also remains in the consciousness of the nation.
The Great War caught the people unprepared; it was impossible to imagine the scale and the length of the conflict to come and the young men went in with a certainty that they will be back home in a few months, not much changed from what they were when they went in.
The war went on year after bitter year; thousands of young men were killed or maimed in battles fought back and forth over the same ground.
It is often said that the flower of the British youth was cut down during those years and the same must be true of all the armies taking part.
After the war the returning soldiers did not always find their reception very understanding; people at home had suffered sorrow, uncertainty and shortages and didn’t want to hear about the horrors of mud, rats, mustard gas attacks and disease in the trenches.
The countless heroic actions performed by the exhausted soldiers in the killing fields of Flanders and elsewhere simply were too many for the telling.
When the war finally ended and the celebrations of peace were over, the tired people of Europe looked at the devastation around them with heavy hearts and started to re-build their lives. They did not know that already, at the peace conference, the seeds were sown for a new trial for them and their children, longer and even more venomous than the last.
The Remembrance Sunday is nowadays dedicated to those killed in all wars and conflicts and poppies are worn as a symbol of that. It is a sign of peace as well as a sign of respect towards those who lost their lives.
After the years of destruction forced on it by humans, the nature again exerted itself and the red poppies bloomed on the bloody battle fields of Flanders.
There are people who see the remembrance ceremonies as glorifying the war but the veterans taking part in them feel differently; they were there, they came back but never forget their comrades in the field and they want to remind those of us who have not had the same experience that war only brings loss, sorrow and unbearable memories.
The poem read at the ceremonies brings tears and shivers even now: “They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old: age shall not weary them nor the years condemn. At the going down of the sun and in the morning, we will remember them……”

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