In memory of Frederick Ernest Bunning who fought in France
Richard Williams who fought in the Balkans
just two representing the many serving on both sides in 1914 - 1918
In honour of Ronnie Mills, taken prisoner at the Battle of Arnhem 1944
Trevor Williams, conscientous objector 1935 - 1967
just two of the many of all nations scarred by World War Two
As I have said before in these pages, pacifism does not mean one does not honour those who have died in the service of their country. Remembrance days are not the days to argue about pacifism versus militarism but I would like to say that I feel that 'remembrance' should not be exclusive to a few days in the autumn but should be always with us. This is why this year I have taken the decision not to wear a poppy, white or red - read on before you lambast me for this decision - but will of course honour the two minutes silence.
Every year I go through the 'Should I buy/wear a poppy? Will it honour the dead or glorify war?' debate in my mind. I have ranged through buying red poppies and wearing/not wearing them, buying white poppies and wearing/not wearing them, buying white and red popppies and wearing both.... This year there have been debates in the media about when is an appropriate time to start wearing poppies [red] and whether those on TV are wearing them just because they have been told to. Enough! Wear a poppy if you want to - that's fine. Don't if you don't want to - that's fine too. But please remember the dead of all nations with honour. Remember too those who showed another kind of bravery and stood up for what they felt was right and were conscientous objectors or pacifists, refusing to bear arms against their fellow wo/man. Believe me it is not easy. A subject for another day, perhaps.
In honour of all who suffered, a fine poem from a fine poet:
Wilfred Owen (1893 - 1918)
It seemed that out of battle I escaped
Down some profound dull tunnel, long since scooped
Through granites which titanic wars had groined.
Yet also there encumbered sleepers groaned,
Too fast in thought or death to be bestirred.
Then ,as I probed them, one sprang up, and stared
With piteous recognition in fixed eyes,
Lifting distressful hands, as if to bless.
And by his smile, I knew that sullen hall, -
By his dead smile I knew we stood in Hell.
With a thousand pains that vision's face was grained;
Yet no blood reached there from the upper ground,
And no guns thumped, or down the flues made moan.
'Strange friend,' I said, 'here is no cause to mourn.'
'None,' said that other, 'save the undone years,
The hopelessness. Whatever hope is yours,
Was my life also; I went hunting wild
After the wildest beauty in the world,
Which lies not calm in eyes, or braided hair,
But mocks the steady running of the hour,
And if it grieves, grieves richlier than here.
For by my glee might many men have laughed,
And of my weeping something had been left,
Which must die now. I mean the truth untold,
The pity of war, the pity war distilled.
Now men will go content with what we spoiled,
Or, discontent, boil bloody, and be spilled.
They will be swift with swiftness of the tigress.
None will break ranks, though nations trek from progress.
Courage was mine, and I had mystery,
Wisdom was mine, and I had mastery:
To miss the march of this retreating world
Into vain citadels that are not walled.
Then, when much blood had clogged their chariot-wheels,
I would go up and wash them from sweet wells,
Even with truths that lie too deep for taint.
I would have poured my spirit without stint
But not through wounds; not on the cess of war.
Foreheads of men have bled where no wounds were.
I am the enemy you killed, my friend.
I knew you in this dark: for so you frowned
Yesterday through me as you jabbed and killed.
I parried; but my hands were loath and cold.
Let us sleep now...'
May the dead Sleep Gently and the living find Peace.
Photograph of the white and red poppies taken from http://www.ppu.org.uk/whitepoppy/white-news108.html which illustrates 'Thought for the day, BBC Radio Bristol, 30th October 2008' and is really worth reading.