You can’t fail to have missed the coverage that has been going on at the Tower of London this year. We visited over the summer, and already there were hundreds of thousands of handmade poppies in place around the landmark. The first poppy was laid on the 5th August, marking the first day of Britain’s full participation in the First World War 100 years later.
When the last poppy is laid this Sunday, on Armistice Day, there will be 888,246 handmade poppies in place, each one remembering a British person who died during the Great War. An estimated 4 million people have come to visit and pay their respects, and as the installation is due to draw to a close this Sunday the queues and number of visitors are growing.
Armistice day is recognised every year, the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918, when the battle on the western front ended and the First World War officially ended. We have a remembrance service on the Sunday which is nearest to the date, as do many churches, to recognise the sacrifice given by those who gave their lives in the war, and subsequent conflicts.
Life is very different now, and the likelihood of us being called to a war of the same scale is fairly slim. There are no survivors from the First World War left, and those who served in the Second World War are now also of advanced years. Which is exactly why we need to remember them…stories and experiences need to be passed down from generation to generation, to understand how we got here, and the price that was paid for our peace and freedom.
My children are shocked enough that when I was growing up there was no such thing as broadband, you had to use a library if you needed information, and all of our telephones had cables attaching the receiver to the base. As we, and they grow older, we distance ourselves further and further from our history, and it is something we need to preserve and share. I am who I am, and I am where I am because of many who served before me…my grandparents served in the second world war and I have other family members who gave their lives…but I don’t know their stories. This coming Sunday is an opportunity to just take a few minutes out to acknowledge this, and remember.
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.