Today was Remembrance Sunday when we honour those who lost their lives in various wars since the First World War. There was wars before the First World War but it took the global industrial carnage of 1914-18 to birth this desire to recall our war dead on the closest Sunday to Armstice Day.
Since the death of Harry Patch last year there are no more British veterans of this conflict to describe just how terrible it was but the statistics alone are staggering. Nearly 1 million British dead, twice as many as died in the Second World War and many times more than have died since then. Perhaps 10 million overall in 4 years of trench stalemate where neither side knew how to dislodge a dug in enemy with machine guns behind barbed wire.
It is interesting to note that the symbol of Remembrance Sunday is a poppy, an agricultural weed that lies dormant in the soil and flourishes when the earth is disturbed. These were the only flowers rugged enough to survive the muddy battlegrounds of Flanders and these were the flowers that inspired the Canadian John McCrae's poem "In Flanders Fields" that in turn inspired Moina Micael to start wearing artificial poppies in remembrance of the war dead.
There are few remaining witnesses to the First World War and there will soon be few to the second. In future years we will be in danger of having Hollywood and video games like the Call of Duty series inform our children of what mass war was really like.
Here is Moina Micael's poem 'We Shall Keep The Faith'
Oh! you who sleep in Flanders Fields,
Sleep sweet - to rise anew!
We caught the torch you threw
And holding high, we keep the Faith
With All who died.
We cherish, too, the poppy red
That grows on fields where valor led;
It seems to signal to the skies
That blood of heroes never dies,
But lends a lustre to the red
Of the flower that blooms above the dead
In Flanders Fields.
And now the Torch and Poppy Red
We wear in honor of our dead.
Fear not that ye have died for naught;
We'll teach the lesson that ye wrought
In Flanders Fields.
In Flanders Fields we fought