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 Remembrance

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PostSubject: Remembrance   Sun Nov 09, 2008 8:42 pm

Today is Remembrance Sunday, which this year falls two days before Remembrance, or Armistice Day, which marks the end of the First World War and thereafter has come to be a day of Remembrance for all those who served in British and Commonwealth forces during all conflicts, the same date is used in Canada and Australia. I believe it also coincides with Veteran's Day in the United states.

Remembrance, particularly given Ireland's historical past and contemporaneous situation is a deep and complex concept. Many on our island incorrectly use it as a vitriolic celebration of their own cultural identity, or worse, of war and destruction. Others perhaps, in their total ignoring of many aspects of the broad palette of Irish and European history miss some of the more subtle and meaningful concepts behind remembrance. I am struck by a story a friend of mine, who attended what you might term a 'prominent' Catholic school in the South told me not too long ago. Owing to an enduring relationship between his school and a 'prominent' Protestant school in the North, a delegation of prefects from each school was sent to the other annually in order to participate in each other's Remembrance service. He noted the shock of the boys from the North when they realised that more boys from the Catholic School in the South, both fought and gave their live's in the First World War than their own school.

I am not a lover of war. I despise it. Whilst many of my family fought during both World Wars, during the Second World War, my grandfather, who is English, was almost jailed owing to his consciencious objection and refusal to conscript arising from his Christian faith. Not only did it ostracise him from vast swathes of his community, but also for a generation from very many of his family. It is one of the proudest things which I can say about my family, yet in itself it is not an achievement, it is not a medal nor a degree nor a piece of paper. I also recognise the great many destructive follies which the armed forces of the Commonwealth and indeed most other large countries have perpetrated. However, I also recognise and remember the sacrifice which many, often younger than me, have made at times in order that we can enjoy the life we now do but more often owing to their being misled by inadequate leadership and policy.

I love war poetry - all aspects of it both that which remembers and that which condemns. Perhaps it would be appropriate to share some. One of which draws on the positive contribution of the military and one of which its often disasterous consequences. I do not agree nor do I overly disagree with either. I just like them as poetry.


So Abram rose, and clave the wood, and went,
And took the fire with him, and a knife.
And as they sojourned both of them together,
Isaac the first-born spake and said, My Father,
Behold the preparations, fire and iron,
But where the lamb for this burnt-offering?
Then Abram bound the youth with belts and straps
and builded parapets and trenches there,
And stretchèd forth the knife to slay his son.
When lo! an angel called him out of heaven,
Saying, Lay not thy hand upon the lad,
Neither do anything to him, thy son.
Behold! Caught in a thicket by its horns,
A Ram. Offer the Ram of Pride instead.


But the old man would not so, but slew his son,
And half the seed of Europe, one by one.
Wilfred Owen

It is the soldier, not the reporter,
Who has given us freedom of the press.
It is the soldier, not the poet,
Who has given us the freedom of speech.

It is the soldier, not the campus organizer,
Who has given us the freedom to demonstrate.
It is the soldier, not the lawyer,
Who has given us the right to a fair trial.

It is the soldier,
Who salutes the flag,
Who serves under the flag,
And whose coffin is draped in the flag,
Who allows the protester to burn the flag.
Charles Province
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PostSubject: Re: Remembrance   Sun Nov 09, 2008 9:00 pm

What Were They Like?
1) Did the people of Viet Nam
use lanterns of stone?
2) Did they hold ceremonies
to reverence the opening of buds?
3) Were they inclined to rippling laughter?
4) Did they use bone and ivory,
jade and silver, for ornament?
5) Had they an epic poem?
6) Did they distinguish between speech and singing?

1) Sir, their light hearts turned to stone.
It is not remembered whether in gardens
stone lanterns illumined pleasant ways.
2) Perhaps they gathered once to delight in blossom,
but after the children were killed
there were no more buds.
3) Sir, laughter is bitter to the burned mouth.
4) A dream ago, perhaps. Ornament is for joy.
All the bones were charred.
5) It is not remembered. Remember,
most were peasants; their life
was in rice and bamboo.
When peaceful clouds were reflected in the paddies
and the water-buffalo stepped surely along terraces,
maybe fathers told their sons old tales.
When bombs smashed the mirrors
there was time only to scream.
6) There is an echo yet, it is said,
of their speech which was like a song.
It is reported their singing resembled
the flight of moths in moonlight.
Who can say? It is silent now.
Denise Levertov
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PostSubject: Re: Remembrance   Fri Dec 05, 2008 2:14 am

My commute reading over the last fortnight has been, in quick succession, Sarah Waters' The Night Watch and Robert Harris' Enigma. Both novels set in WW2 England / London and eye/mind-opening for me.

In Ireland, WW2 was muffled under "The Emergency"-type language by Dev and subsequently by ...I won't say what I feel about the official Irish p.o.v, my siblings and I still disagree ... but these novels (in particular, Waters' evocation of London at the time) have opened up a whole new vision of what it must have been like to live through that. And I have genuinely been deeply shocked. I had obviously never appreciated that London had actually suffered as much as it apparently did.
My partner's parents were very young kids at the time and were eventually evacuated down to Devon or Cornwall, I think. However, they still rem. air raid sirens, fly-overs and bombs. Something we can't even begin to imagine.

Johnfas, your grandfather was an incredibly brave man, as I'm sure you know and appreciate. My own great-uncle was an officer in the British Army at this time. I know he served in India at some point in the mid/late 30s, but am trying to trace his and my great-aunt's possibly divergent stories at the moment.

I have read on the bbc website this week (sorry, no immediate links) that more Irish (ie Republic) than ever are now applying to join the British Army.
Remembrance should feature ever larger in Irish public and civic life in future.
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PostSubject: Re: Remembrance   Fri Dec 05, 2008 2:16 am

P.S. - don't tell Youngdan about Waters - she's "another wan" I've heard! Shocked
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PostSubject: Re: Remembrance   Fri Dec 05, 2008 2:20 am

Atticus wrote:
P.S. - don't tell Youngdan about Waters - she's "another wan" I've heard! Shocked

The only lettuce-lickers youngdan likes is his rabbit.




Luckily rockyracoon isn't here to hear that kind of comment
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PostSubject: Re: Remembrance   Fri Dec 05, 2008 2:23 am

I spent some of my childhood in a town that had been very heavily bombed. Even in the 1970s there were still some overgrown gaps where buildings had been destroyed. The local primary school still used the air raid siren as a fire alarm: when we had fire drills the vision of the sky blackened with bombers would inevitably come to mind.
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PostSubject: Re: Remembrance   Fri Dec 05, 2008 2:25 am

I spent some of my childhood in a town that had been very heavily bombed. Even in the 1970s there were still some overgrown gaps where buildings had been destroyed. The local primary school still used the air raid siren as a fire alarm: when we had fire drills the vision of the sky blackened with bombers would inevitably come to mind.
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PostSubject: Re: Remembrance   Fri Dec 05, 2008 2:31 am

An uncle of mine (in Irel.) still has a WW2 look-out post at the bottom of his drive. Stone square thing with slits to look out and see what was coming across the border.
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PostSubject: Re: Remembrance   Fri Dec 05, 2008 2:46 am

I grew up in London - most of my teachers at school had fought in WW2, and my grandparents worked through the Blitz in Hammersmith - my grandfather was a Post Office engineer, and told very vivid stories about V1 and V2 flying bombs, listening for the engine to stop, which meant they'd started to fall. My father did his military service in just-post-war Germany (my wife's father, who was a good bit older, was a Spitfire pilot). I remember being taken round a local air-raid shelter as a kid (well, it was only 28 years since the end of the war, which is as close as 1980 to here). My school had rolls of honour on the walls - pupils who'd gone straight from the classrooms to the trenches of WW1 and the Normandy landings of WW2. The school library was full of books on battles, tanks, military technology, stuffed with the kind of photos you wouldn't show to children these days (flamethrower tank in action). Went round the WWI battlefields when I was 12, but didn't find my great-grandfather (Gunner in the Royal Garrison Artillery, killed in the 1917 spring offensive by counter-battery fire and gas).

You very much grew up with it, in London. I sometimes think it explains my attitude (as a philosophical pacifist) to the EU. Almost anything is better than a repeat of that.
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PostSubject: Re: Remembrance   Fri Dec 05, 2008 2:49 am

In my secondary school there is a large memorial to all the pupils who died in the First and Second World Wars. We had (and they still do) honour them with a Remembrance Day Service every year.

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PostSubject: Re: Remembrance   Fri Dec 05, 2008 2:51 am

Atticus wrote:
An uncle of mine (in Irel.) still has a WW2 look-out post at the bottom of his drive. Stone square thing with slits to look out and see what was coming across the border.

Whole generations of young Britishers were conceived in these delightful edifices Surprised
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PostSubject: Re: Remembrance   Fri Dec 05, 2008 3:03 am

The whole experience, included talking to all my OH's relatives, has been an interesting counterpoint to my earlier experience of living in Hamburg for 18mths or so, many years ago.

Hamburg - surely, the most English of German cities - suffered horribly during the war. Most of it was bombed to nothing, giving post-war architects the chance to rebuild in that soul-destroying post-war block style. However, to read the first-hand accounts of the bombing, the survival thru living on rodents ... my eyes sting even now at the memory, knowing how German friends' parents and grandparents suffered...
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PostSubject: Re: Remembrance   Fri Dec 05, 2008 3:05 am

cactus flower wrote:
Atticus wrote:
An uncle of mine (in Irel.) still has a WW2 look-out post at the bottom of his drive. Stone square thing with slits to look out and see what was coming across the border.

Whole generations of young Britishers were conceived in these delightful edifices Surprised

An incendiary thought, Cactus, believe me! On both levels.
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PostSubject: Re: Remembrance   Fri Dec 05, 2008 3:08 am

I know the Wars never visited Dublin, but sometimes when I'm in town, I look for bullet holes in the buildings. I've never found any. Am I weird or what ...

I never found any in Paris either.
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PostSubject: Re: Remembrance   Fri Dec 05, 2008 3:10 am

Well they did visit Dublin on several occasions "by mistake" there was quite a bit of damage done to the North Strand.

Interestingly the next road down from mine in Terenure was also bombed. If you go down that road, which I won't name 'cos I'll have you all too close to my house Razz you can see that 90% of them are pre war redbrick with one or two exceptions. Those exceptions are where there was serious structural damage done that new houses had to be built.
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PostSubject: Re: Remembrance   Fri Dec 05, 2008 3:23 pm

The old man was a small child in Germany during WWII. While my grandfather was away fighting on the eastern front, the house was bombed. In total they had to move on 5 occasions. When the war ended, there were huge deserted ammo dumps in which they played. Dad said that once they they found a deserted train full of guns etc.

The grandfather who was a Waffen SS captain, predictably never used to like to talk about the war. He was passed clean of atrocities by the brits, but did 5 years none the less. No one knew if he was alive or dead, but he came back from prison weighing 8 stone(he was 5 11).I suppose he was lucky to be alive at all. He lived for another 40 years but he still had to carry these papers which stated him as being clean when crossing into east germany to see his brothers.
As to Nazi stuff, I heard that he actually wasnt a major fan of Hitler. That would have been my grandmother and she apparantly pushed him to join up, or so I'm told. Hitler apparantly appealled to German women more than the men.

So for me 1918 and 1945 are very poignoint and very personal. I think its hard for me to be critical of say Israel, in the way that someone who doesnt actually understand from a personal level what the situation was.
Its not guilt - its ensuring that wrongs dont happen again. The other big lesson is a healthy disrespect for authority. Blindly following bastards like Hitler is what results from being too trusting. The men and women in 1914-18 were blinder to a lessor degree, but it was awful as well.
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PostSubject: Re: Remembrance   Fri Dec 05, 2008 11:52 pm

My mother's uncle from Tipperary fought in North Africa during the second world war and never spoke about it to us. I only found out that he had joined up after he had died when there was an obituary in the local paper about him. He had an extremely colourful life and was a fascinating man.

Given the vitriol in some quarters even nowadays it isn't surprising that he kept quiet.
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PostSubject: Re: Remembrance   Sat Dec 06, 2008 12:26 am

Where I grew up in England was bombed by the Luftwaffe, the street next to mine took a fair bit of damage, the town centre was hit by a V1, the industrial area and airport were heavily bombed.

My father told me of a German plane that crashed near where he grew up in the West of Ireland, the locals apparently went up the mountain to where the plane came down, then killed a survivor, looting the plane and the bodies. Also remembered crates of stuff being washed up next to his home on the strand from sunken Allied merchant ships. And he swears that Louis Mountbatten was walking on the beach there one day picking cockles, while the same night was broadcasting from Burma! He was only a little boy at the time, so might possibly be mistaken...
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PostSubject: Re: Remembrance   Sat Dec 06, 2008 1:03 am

toxic avenger wrote:
My father told me of a German plane that crashed near where he grew up in the West of Ireland, the locals apparently went up the mountain to where the plane came down, then killed a survivor, looting the plane and the bodies...
Killed a survivor? Jeez.

I wonder, did the bodies end up in Glencree? The Germans did a lot of work documenting the lives of all those servicemen. It's a beautiful cemetery, in a beautiful place.
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PostSubject: Re: Remembrance   Sat Dec 06, 2008 1:16 am

soubresauts wrote:
toxic avenger wrote:
My father told me of a German plane that crashed near where he grew up in the West of Ireland, the locals apparently went up the mountain to where the plane came down, then killed a survivor, looting the plane and the bodies...
Killed a survivor? Jeez.

I wonder, did the bodies end up in Glencree? The Germans did a lot of work documenting the lives of all those servicemen. It's a beautiful cemetery, in a beautiful place.

I heard another story about a couple of German pilots who ditched their plane and landed somewhere on the east coast and someone's aunt, then in her youth, came running into the kitchen saying "Come quick ***** There's Germans on the beach, and they're looovely..."


Last edited by cactus flower on Sun Dec 07, 2008 2:58 pm; edited 1 time in total
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PostSubject: Re: Remembrance   Sun Dec 07, 2008 10:29 am

I'm all for personal rememberance if thats your thing. I have two relatives who fought in WW1, one of whom is still in Flanders. But I have to say, the official rememberance thing is driving me a bit nuts nowadays. Hopefully its a fad that will die out with the last veterns.

My reasoning is that here is Australia there is two feckin' days, ANZAC day and nov 11th. These holidays basically promote militarism - its just not done to ask why they died anymore. Then whenever an Australian soldier gets blown up in Afghanistan its 'digger killed' like its all a boys own adventure.

The anti war movement in the 1960's led to a decline in popularity for the holiday (until a resurgance in the 1990's) and this is mentioned in the national media now like its something peaceniks and hippies should be ashamed of.
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PostSubject: Re: Remembrance   Sun Dec 07, 2008 12:26 pm

Well said that man.

If we don't go along with the "poppy facism" ,as Jon Snow termed it, then we are some how immature, backward or bitter and twisted Neanderthal

It really saddens me that RTE used the annual poppy fest to produce a British army recruiting video.
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PostSubject: Re: Remembrance   Sun Dec 07, 2008 3:04 pm

Thanks for posting on that Seathrún Ceitinn. I saw it and it was grotesque. Have people completely lost the plot? I know there was a thread for a long time on P.ie on recruitment into the British army from Ireland. As far as RTE and the Irish Times go on this issue, we may as well not have bothered with Independence.

The class element of it was vomit inducing. All those nice English Catholic officers from Ambleforth and Downside Bridesheading about, whist the Irish Paddy plebs do as they're ordered.
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PostSubject: Re: Remembrance   Sun Dec 07, 2008 10:21 pm

Whatever about "poppy fascism", of which very little if any exists in this country, in fact the reverse, the bitterness and viciousness of the p.ie threads on this subject finished me with that board.

Individual Irish people for generations made the choice for generations, for whatever reason, to join the British Army. I can understand many Irish people being offended by coverage on RTE though I do not share that point of view personally. As to Irish Times coverage, those who did not believe that Britain was the root of all evil in the world are part of the core constituency of that paper. Other newspapers are available.
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PostSubject: Re: Remembrance   Sun Dec 07, 2008 10:29 pm

Ronald Binge wrote:
Whatever about "poppy fascism", of which very little if any exists in this country, in fact the reverse, the bitterness and viciousness of the p.ie threads on this subject finished me with that board.

Individual Irish people for generations made the choice for generations, for whatever reason, to join the British Army. I can understand many Irish people being offended by coverage on RTE though I do not share that point of view personally. As to Irish Times coverage, those who did not believe that Britain was the root of all evil in the world are part of the core constituency of that paper. Other newspapers are available.

My grandfather was in the British army as a conscript. Like most people, he never fired a shot in anger. He spent the war filling in forms. The British regular army is something else altogether: it role is still to maintain power relations that are advantageous to Britain's economic interests. Iraq, Afghanistan, the North of Ireland or strikebreaking, to name but a few jobs. People can't be stopped from making the choice of joining, but I wish they could be dissuaded.
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