Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Thank you and farewell

On 11 November 1918 the First World War effectively ended when a peace treaty was signed by Germany and the Commonwealth of Nations. An armistice, which is a truce made by opposing sides, was signed at 11 am on what has become known as the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month. The following year, after the signing of the Treaty of Versailles, when what is now known as the Great War was formally ended, a peace parade was held. For a number of years after that, what came to be known as Armistice Day, was celebrated. It was not about victory. It was about peace. It was about remembering all those people who had died in the line of duty. To help us do this there has always been 2 minutes of silence at 11 am on 11 November.

It is now 100 years since the Great War ended. Tragically, WW2 followed in little over 20 years. There have been many other wars across the world since then as well, so now, what eventually came to be called Remembrance Day, is the day when nations remember all those other soldiers, sailors and airmen who have died more recently, as well as those who fought a century ago. Whether this will continue, only time will tell, but this year in the UK it was special.

Danny Boyle, the Academy Award winning film director, challenged the people in the UK to go to the beaches to remember those soldiers who boarded the troop ships that would take them into battle. 30 beaches around the UK were chosen and Formby Beach, which is right outside my front door, was one of them.

This might not look like many people walking towards the beach but they kept on coming and, if you look closely, you can see  crowds beginning to congregate on top of the sand dunes as well. They were making the journey to commemorate the lives of those millions of young men of all nations who never had a chance to grow old, and they were doing this on a day that started out overcast, cold and very wet. As the minutes ticked towards eleven o'clock, however, the clouds began to part, and by the time a lone bugler began to play the The Last Post, the haunting tune that would lead the crowd into 2 minutes of silence, the sun came out.

When the silence ended there was just one more thing the crowd had to do, and that was to watch as the incoming tide washed away the huge portrait that had been sculpted into the sand, an image of a WWI soldier. It was a final farewell and thank you to those who had suffered so much for the price of our freedom. 

My family, like so many others, suffered during both world wars. Uncles died and others sustained injuries that affected them for the rest of their lives, so I grew up knowing their stories, and also knowing about the deprivations many suffered after both wars. Unemployment, food shortages, a lack of decent housing, all went on for a very long time. Yet, without those wars and the tremendous sacrifices, would I have been the recipient of free health care for the whole of my life, or received a free first class education, benefited from female emancipation, been able to pick and chose a career...even write books that are published by Books We Love...the list is endless. 

So as we watched the waves wash away all that was left we said thank you, and farewell.

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