Remembrance Day

Tomorrow is Remembrance day.

Lots of different memories come flooding back when I think about it and many different views.

I remember, as a child, standing around the War Memorial in our village with many WW1 and WW2 veterans in uniform and rows of medals. Alongside that the strangeness of the main road being halted of traffic. Realising how many of them had seen friends and comrades killed and wounded.

Alongside that were the stories of my Great Grandfather who commanded the 2nd Light Cruiser squadron at Jutland and had been the first to spot the German fleet. His ship was badly hit and only just made it back to port.

There’s the memory of my Great Uncle being captured by the Turks at Gallipoli and being marched over the mountains bare-footed to a prisoner of war camp.

Lewis machine gun

Or the story of my grandmother. Rummaging in her cellar in the late ’70s I stumbled across a Lewis gun. Asking her what it was she told me that it was from her time as chief air-raid warden in the village. She had been given it in case she was attacked by German Stukas!

Or the story told with great glee by her daughters of the time that some incendiary bombs had fallen near-by and she asked if they would like to come and pick them up with her. They immediately chorused “Yes please” and so they got in the car and off they went. They came to a ploughed field and bumped their way over it. Getting to the bombs my grandmother blithely threw them into the back of the car.

They drove back over the ploughed field bumping all the way. Getting home she asked her daughters if they would like to see one go off. They said that they would and she got one and through it down onto the drive. She says that was all that happened. Her daughters maintain that she did it again and it went off and blew a hole in the drive.

Risking their lives, others losing their lives, living in difficult conditions due to war.

I have just finished reading one of the most depressing books called ‘England’s Last War Against France’. It describes the awful war between the British government and Vichy France between 1940 and 1942. Thousands died. I think that these were the bravest of the brave. Risking their lives in a war that should not have happened and only happened because some top Vichy politicians wanted to be “senior conquered” partner to Nazi Germany. Convinced that Germany would win they wanted Britain also to fail and fall.

Sailors and soldiers had to fight against people who had until recently been allies.

Or in Afghanistan. We have been fighting for coming up to nine years in Afghanistan. Each week we hear men being read out who have died in Afghanistan. And far more than they have been wounded. With no end in sight.

On Remembrance day I remember all this and more.

When the Bible talks of remembering it is not just a “calling to mind”. It is a remembering “as if we were there”. The Jewish Mishnah says that “In every generation, each person is obligated to see himself as if he went out of Egypt”. This is the biblical view of remembrance. To see “as if we were there”.

So tomorrow. I will try and remember “as if I was there”. The agonising, the brave, the humorous. All these stories, and so many more, remind me of why tomorrow is such an important day.

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