Sunday, 13 November 2016

Remembrance Reflections

My Unknown Soldier by Laura McLintic.

Laura McLintic visited a cemetery on the Flanders battlefield during a trip with her school. Each pupil had been handed a remembrance cross to place on a grave that had a particular meaning to them, but Miss McLintic did not know anyone buried there.

On the Flanders battle field, Laura placed a cross on one of the 11,908 graves in front of her. By using her date of birth, she chose an unmarked grave at random and placed her cross on top of it.

"I went to plot 21 as my birthday is on June 21 and then to Row F and it was the first Unknown Soldier. It was simply marked: 'A Soldier of the Great War - Known Unto God' and at that moment I gave my heart to him. It was an incredible experience to see all those graves and to realise how many had no names on them. They gave their lives to set me free and everyone else free."

Many men have crosses, Or wreaths about their stone.
I place my simple cross, So you'll never be alone.
So thank you, unknown soldier, My comfort and my friend.
You will be my continuity, Until my life is at an end.

Fateful News

If the Great War is often referred to as warfare on an industrial scale, and some of the trench battles at Passchendaele and the Somme as carnage on an industrial scale, there was nothing industrial about the telegram Margaret Barr’s great grandmother received telling her of her son’s death.

David Wyllie, Heugh Farm, North Berwick;
regret Pte David Wyllie, 1/7 Black Watch,
reported 24 April 1917, died from gunshot
wounds in no 41 Casualty Clearing Station,

Personal and profoundly intimate, this was bone of her bone and flesh of her flesh, and it must have torn at her heart

The Battle of Loos

At the battle of Loos the British attacked on a six and-a-half-mile front behind a gas barrage. At one point where the 15th Scottish Division were attacking the gas failed to blow into the German trenches.

As the men hesitated a lone piper marched up and down the parapet playing ‘Scotland the Brave’ and the men charged choking into the gas. At Loos, of the 10,000 British who attacked, 385 officers and 7,861 men were killed or injured. Harold Macmillan, who never himself entirely recovered from what he experienced said it was ‘Rather awful’.

One of the young officers who fought, Roland Leighton, wrote of it: ‘Let him who thinks war is a glorious, golden thing, who loves to roll forth stirring words of exhortation, invoking Honour and Valour and love of country, let him but look at a little pile of sodden grey rags that cover half a skull and a shin-bone and what might have been its ribs and let him realize how grand and glorious it is.’

[Revd Martin Camroux Cheam]


In one of the many battles in the Gallipoli campaign more than 30,000 British and French troops attacked the Turkish lines. They advanced about 250 yards on a mile-long front. 4,500 British and 2,000 French fell along with 9,000 Turks.

Among the dead was Private Jim Scotson who was standing next to his father when killed by a Turkish sniper. His father fainted with the shock and had been sent on a hospital ship to Egypt suffering from a mental breakdown.

For days the dead could not be buried. ‘The flies crawled in their millions over the dead,’ Chief Petty Officer Johnson wrote ‘and rose in clouds when a corpse was lifted to the grave.’

One of those who fought and survived was A. P. Herbert. He wrote a poem about the battle and the experience of seeing ‘The wounded wailing in the sun, the dead, the dust, the flies’. He wrote:

The flies, O God, the flies . . .
To see them swarm from dead men’s eyes
and share the soldiers bread.

Later Herbert published an account of his experiences in a book The Secret Battle to which Winston Churchill wrote an introduction. 

Churchill called it ‘One of those cries of pain wrung from the fighting troops by the prolonged and merciless torment through which they passed.’ ‘It should,’ he said, ‘be read in each generation so that men and women are under no illusions about what war means.’

Today we keep our tryst with the dead by for a moment looking into the darkness and seeing the price of war in human lives.

[Revd Martin Camroux Cheam]

The Diary of Anne Frank

Writing in a diary is a really strange experience for someone like me. Not only because I’ve never written anything before, but also because it seems to me that later on neither I nor anyone else will be interested in the musings of a thirteen-year old school girl. Oh well, it doesn’t matter. I feel like writing.

How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world.

I know what I want, I have a goal, an opinion, I have a religion and love. Let me be myself and then I am satisfied. I know that I’m a woman, a woman with inward strength and plenty of courage.

It’s difficult in times like these: ideals, dreams and cherished hopes rise within us, only to be crushed by grim reality. It’s a wonder I haven’t abandoned all my ideals, they seem so absurd and impractical. Yet I cling to them because I still believe, in spite of everything, that people are truly good at heart.

What is done cannot be undone, but one can prevent it happening again.

I don’t think of all the misery but of the beauty that still remains.

The diary stops abruptly in August 1944, when her family are betrayed and eventually sent to Auschwitz death camp. Only Anne’s father Otto survived and published his daughter’s Anne’s diary in 1947.

The Lord will judge between the nations and will settle disputes for many peoples. They will beat their swords into ploughshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not take up sword against nation, nor will they train for war anymore.
(Isaiah, 2:3)

1 comment:

James said...

Gallipoli: a footnote

Sgt James Sandison served with the New Zealand Expeditionary Force at Gallipoli.

His unit were pinned down on the beaches, with little cover from the Turks firing from above. It was his task to go down the trenches during the hours of darkness and bang the wounded on the head with the butt of his rifle to render them unconscious - so that they would not cry out, allowing the Turks to train their fire.

He survived the war, but died of chronic alcohol poisoning just over four years later: he drank to try and keep the nightmares at bay.

His youngest daughter Lena was my wife's mother.