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Sunday, November 08, 2009

In Flanders Field ...

As a young teenage lad walking to the Territorial Army cadets on a Friday evening, I thought I was pretty damn cool in my uniform, beret cocked dandily to one side with a Royal Artillery badge upon it, glistening in the evening sunshine. I can remember just how badly those awful shirts itched, no matter how much fabric conditioner my Mum used on them! I can remember feeling generally very proud to be a part of something that was affiliated to the regular army which, it turns out, my parents were terrified of me signing up for.

I can also remember how good it felt asking my Dad to sign the permission form which would allow me to go up in a Chinook helicopter if ever the need arrived and, with his pen poised, asking me, "yeah, but you're unlikely to ever actually need to right?"

Sadly, I never did go up in one but still rush to the window at hearing one, looking forlornly at them, watching their turns as they follow the twists of the river Thames as they head across the capital.

I remember also, the immense pride at taking part in the special parade which took place on the second Sunday of November to honour the memory of those who had given their lives during The Great War.

Quite why it was called the "great" war though, continues to be a mystery as there is nothing great about war.

Strange really, that after a decade of making me cry with laughter, Richard Curtis and Rowan Atkinson managed to bring home the awfulness, the sadness and the incredible waste of life, in the final scene of Blackadder Goes Forth. From muddy trench to lying dead in No Mans Land in the space of 30 seconds.

The war to end all wars?

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,

That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly

Scarce heard amid the guns below.
We are the Dead. Short days ago

We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved, and were loved, and now we lie

In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die

We shall not sleep, though poppies grow

In Flanders fields.

— Lt.-Col.
John McCrae (1872 - 1918)


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