Will you remember?

poppy-field

This week in school we celebrate the theme of remembrance. I believe for all of us there is a special poignance as the centenary of WWI is celebrated this year. So what can we take from this time that has meaning for the world we live in today?

It is important to stop and think of how we can remember those who sacrificed their lives for the freedoms we take for granted each day. Some people may suggest that as the memories of the World Wars fade with each generation we could risk forgetting the reality of what they lived through. Today there is a risk that we trivialise the experience as “war games” for young people are popular and detach us from the human reality of what really happens.

At times the enormity of suffering and death experienced is difficult to comprehend. The striking installation of poppies at the Tower of London has helped people imagine what this is all about. It is estimated that over 1 million men and women from the British Empire sacrificed their lives in WW1, this does not include the suffering and death of others involved in the conflict on either side.

Perhaps it is by witness accounts, literature and poetry that young people can most engage in the experience of war. We cannot forget that behind every statistic is a real human story and impact. We also need to recognise that we still work and pray for a world of peace where many areas of the world face conflict and war each and every day.

A few questions for us in the week ahead…

  • How can we “keep alive” the memory of those who sacrificed themselves in times of conflict and war?
  • What role can education have in making the world one of peace, tolerance and respect?
  • How do we ensure that we have peace in our lives and with those around us?

I was very struck by the site Every Man Remembered and found details of my Great Grandfather and his story. This led me to the account below.

On Sunday 17 June 1917 in front of a crowd of 40,000 at Newcastle Saint James’ Park football ground the King and Queen presented medals and decorations to soldiers, and the families of deceased soldiers. This was probably the biggest single crowd that gathered during the 1917 North-East royal tour, and one of the few non-industrial events. The un-interpreted photo number 43 of the Conquest Collection, referred to on this thread, actually shows the King presenting the DSO at Newcastle football ground to Helen Walker Dunford, the widow of Captain Roy Craig Dunford of the Northumberland Fusiliers, with the Queen about to greet his fatherless toddler son. This touching and remarkable photo, or one very similar, first appeared in the Daily Mirror on 19 June 1917, page 7, with two photos of the event described.

Grandpa Medal

The toddler in question in question is my Grandfather and it is a picture that has a vivid place in my memory from when I was growing up. It is when this reality is made real to us that we must make a commitment to never forget what has been sacrificed for us to enjoy the freedom and peace we have in our lives. We equally have an obligation to commit to building a world of peace and reconciliation even today. I give thanks for this especially today as I remember, with great pride, the life, sacrifice and death of my Great Grandfather on 10th November 1916.

“To the memory of the fallen and the future of the living”

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