Friday 11 November 2011

Lest We Forget – Remembrance Day with its Two Minutes Silence at 11.00am

The red-flowered corn poppy became the symbol of wartime remembrance for the First World War – being immortalised by John McCrae, the Canadian Surgeon and Soldier, in his famous poem of 1915  “In Flanders Fields”.

The wonder of nature reminding us each year as the red poppies rise again amongst the corn to remember all who have suffered through War – the dead and their relatives, those injured and those around the world who suffer and die for the good of all, who desire to live freely.

Illustrated page by Ernest Clegg.
Note that the first line ends with “grow”
– perhaps a memory slip after the War.
Published in 1921, with a preface by
William Thomas Manning
(US Episcopal Bishop of New York).
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.

Len Smith's illustrated War Diary
Dusty recesses keep providing us with historical records bringing back the toils of those times; in 2009 one of the oldest surviving First World War poppies – plucked from the killing fields of Flanders in 1915 – has been found in the diary of a former soldier.

Len Smith was 24 when he picked the delicate flower from the ground in no man’s land while serving with the 7th City of London Regiment in Belgium.  Mr Smith, a sniper and battlefield artist, pressed the poppy in his diary for safe keeping – perfectly preserved for over 90 years. 

The book: Drawing Fire
The illustrated war diary compiled by the infantryman during his service until 1919, has been published as a book – Drawing Fire – complete with the pictures he drew while on the front line.

Another actual poppy picked from the trenches in Arras has been preserved in acrylic and is on show at The Montague Inn’s art exhibition.  Private Cecil Roughton was just 17 when he preserved the flower during a bloody battle in France in May 1916 or perhaps May 1917.

Private Cecil Roughton's Poppy:
Welsh experts have preserved it
in acrylic
The soldier from the Royal Warwickshire Regiment, kept it in his notebook before sending it home to Moseley, Birmingham.  It lay forgotten for nearly a century until it was donated to the Royal British Legion.

The Art Exhibition being held during October and November at The Montague Inn is to mark the opening of Tedworth House – the Personnel Recovery and Assessment Centre.

Personnel at Tedworth House -
the Recovery and Assessment Unit
for injured servicemen and women
Two remarkable artists have initiated this art exhibition. Two men passionate in their work span generations: Ted Milligan, a POW in Stalag Luft 7, Bankau and one of the service men who trudged 240 km (150 miles) on the forced march to Stalag 3A at Luckenwalde, collaborated with Jon England, more than 60 years his junior to hold the exhibition.

The Montague Inn is putting on various events – talks, dinners, suppers with eminent speakers where participants may mix with all, including the artists – to mark the opening of nearby Tedworth Recovery and Assessment Centre for service personnel.

Be at peace, hold your head up, be the best you can, let your soul sing for all on earth and beyond to the heavens – Lest We Forget – Remember Them.

Dear Mr Postman – my mother is communicating a bit more now – the brain is amazing, and her ability to remain with us is wonderful.   I will sit with her during our Remembrance Day Cenotaph Service on Sunday ... which, should she be awake, she will appreciate.

The Guardian: Woodford Green - Poppy from Flanders Fields ... preserved 
The book: Drawing Fire (Flanders)

The Express: Poppy Plucked from the Trenches (Arras)
Antiquarian's Attic: World War One poppies go on show (Arras)

Tedworth House - Ministry of Defence: The army's recovery centre 
The Montague Inn - art exhibition 

Hilary Melton-Butcher
Positive Letters Inspirational Stories


MunirGhiasuddin said...

Those Poppys are beautiful Hilary. The very colour makes you smile. I did not realize that rememberance day coinincides with Veteran's day in the US. We know quite a few veterans as we live close to Purple Heart Hall of Fame. My brother is a retired Navy Chief and is a happy veteran but he says that a lot of veterans are not in a good shape and yet they have a lot of pride. Thanks for yet a great post:)


A wonderful post Hilary, and those words however often you hear them they always bring a tear to one's eye. Thank you , excellent reading.


Old Kitty said...

Those pressed poppies are lovely and mean so much more.

Take care

Mike Goad said...

Very interesting post. Eleventh hour of the eleventh day... so easy to remember.

I was in uniform on Veterans Day (Remembrance Day) in 1967, marching in a parade in downtown Houston, Texas. I can still remember the marching and music stopping at 11 o'clock and the haunting sound of Taps echoing through the steel and concrete canyon of Main Street. I was 15 years old and it was my single semester participating in ROTC (Reserve Officers Training Corps).

I later served in the US Navy on submarines and have nothing but awed respect for those who actually served in battle or the threat of battle.

Unknown said...

An excellent post, Hilary. A fitting tribute.

Julie Flanders said...

Oh my goodness, the pressed poppies are so beautiful. It gave me the chills to think of Len Smith picking that flower and preserving it all those years. Beautiful post, Hilary!

Rosalind Adam said...

A moving post for a moving time of year. My father was an ex-serviceman and active member of his local group until he died in 1977.

Thankfully it looks as if the country has been allowed to conduct it's 2 minutes' silence without interruptions this year. We sat on the settee with the TV on, we don't usually do morning viewing but it gave a focal point to the 2 minutes silence.

Susan Flett Swiderski said...

What a wonderful tribute. Thank you. (And a sincere thanks to all our veterans.)

Anonymous said...

A most wonderful post, Hilary! I love the poppies, even though they symbolize sadness. They also symbolize great heroism and wonderful lives that weren't really lost. It was a sacrifice of duty and love. A great tribute this is to all of them!

And this poem is one of my all-time favorites. I've been wanting to find it again. Now I have it in a word file. Thanks! And happy 11/11/11 day!
Ann Best, Author of In the Mirror, A Memoir of Shattered Secrets

helen tilston said...

Hello Hilary

A beautiful tribute to our past brave ones. I love what you wrote::

Be at peace, hold your head up, be the best you can, let your soul sing for all on earth and beyond to the heavens – Lest We Forget – Remember Them.

I have also posted about Remembrance Day

Helen Tilston xx

Southpaw said...

I'm really drawn to the images you've used in the post today.

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

@ Munir - I love seeing the fields full of poppies .. and there are many layers of life underneath their roots - still they make you smile don't they.

Remembrance Day, Armistice Day and Veterans' Day are all 11 November .. thank goodness your brother came through and is happy - I know many others didn't. They do have pride for their country - we are grateful.

@ Yvonne - many thanks .. words can say many things can't they .. and resonate across the decades.

@ Old Kitty - I'm so pleased I found those pieces of information about the pressed poppies, old diaries and art work .. fascinating to see.

@ Mike - it is easy to remember - especially this year: 11.11.11

When we were involved in things as children we keep those feelings - I love your description of that time: the haunting sound of Taps echoing through ....

It's a thought that many of us hold - that of participating or serving our country in a War - and it's not a comfortable one .. like you, I hold awe and respect for all serving men and women.

@ Shirley - thank you.

Thanks Munir, Yvonne, Old Kitty, Mike and Shirley - with thoughts for the weekend - Hilary

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

@ Julie - I agree, the pressed poppies and diaries etc are just wonderful to see all these years later.

The same thought occurred to me - those two youngsters just needing to touch the earth and keep a flower - it's an inspiring memory for us.

@ Ros - many thanks .. yes when I sit with my mother I get very involved and emotional. The ex- servicemen do their members and ex members a huge compliment with their dedication to this day.

I hope and think the Cenotaph Service is on Sunday .. I was at a funeral today .. so I'll sit with my mother. I too am glad there apparently hasn't been any disruption.

@ Susan - many thanks .. and especially to all our veterans and those gone before.

@ Ann - many thanks .. I know poppies have other meanings - but on today - they only mean one thing .. the fallen - and as you say great heroes in sacrifice and duty.

So pleased I used 'In Flanders Fields' poem .. it is extremely evocative ... lovely words - glad you've saved it.

@ Helen - thank you .. I enjoyed writing the post and especially being able to add to our knowledge ..

The words just came .. simple and relevant ..

I'll be over to check your post.

Thanks so much Julie, Ros, Susan, Ann and Helen .. with thoughts - Hilary

short poems said...

An amazing tribute Hilary. I love what you wrote, great work!

Susan Scheid said...

The simple tribute of the poppy is the best I know, and you have brought it to meaningful life once again with all the stories in your post. That delicate poppy, so durable as a remembrance, is also, as you so artfully show, durable in fact.

Joanne said...

A perfect tribute Hilary, especially that fascinating diary with the flowers pressed inside. What a story is found in that simple image. Oh the power of a book, any book, to move us.

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

@ Holly .. many thanks - I like using the pictures I can find - just lucky .. but so pleased you enjoy them.

@ Marinela .. lovely to see you and thank you ..

@ Susan - you've said it so well .. so delicate, so durable as a remembrance and in fact - really grateful you've set it down so clearly.

@ Joanne - aren't the two stories of the poppies just brilliant - and exactly as you say the power of a book - two in this instance .. a diary and a note book ..

I would think the "Drawing Fire" book will be fascinating .. and I'd love to get down to Somerset to see the art exhibition.

I wonder what else will materialise in the next few years ..

Thanks so much Holly, Marinela, Susan and Joanne .. all the best for the weekend .. Hilary

Jannie Funster said...

Glad to hear your mom is communicating better. Hope the ceremony was lovely. Im sure it was.

Lovely post, poppies are so fresh and cheerful.


Arlee Bird said...

A lovely tribute. Our veterans and those soldiers who gave their lives should be thanked every day, but it's good that we've set aside a very special day for the sacrifice they've made for us.

Ann Carbine Best visits Wrote By Rote on Saturday 11/12/11

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

@ Jannie - lovely seeing you .. yes it surprises me that my Mama is a little more conversational.

Your Canadian surgeon-poet has done us all proud with this beautiful evocative poem.

@ Lee - many thanks .. it is really important that we remember everyone and continue to do so.

Good to see you both here - cheers Hilary

My Daily London said...

Beautiful blog and great work too Hilary.... A perfect tribute!

Inger said...

What a magnificent post, thank you Hilary. Though I know the poem, it did not come to mind yesterday when I donated to one of the old veterans who stood by all the stores in town. What I received from him was a tiny red poppy (I know now that's what it was) made of cloth, with a note of remembrance attached. I will never forget this now and will treasure the little poppy.

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

@ My Daily London - many thanks and a pleasure having you here.

@ Inger - I'm so pleased it brought back some memories and has given you a new one for future 11 Nov years. Poppy Day is always a soulful time - many memories for lots of people ..

The poppy and the Easter palm .. remind us - we will never forget ..

Wonderful comment.

Thanks MDL and Inger - great seeing you both here .. cheers Hilary

A Lady's Life said...

Wonderful blog and tribute to those who sacrificed for people who will never know them.
I love the Flanders Field post

Kathryn Magendie said...

Thank you for this wonderful tribute -- well done, Hilary.

Sharon K. Mayhew said...

Lovely post, Hilary. I love poppies because of their symbolism.

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

@ A Lady's Life - many thanks .. the Flanders Field poem is so moving and reminds us to think of the fallen.

@ Kat - thanks very much .. a poignant time for your family - with thoughts

@ Sharon - the poppies over the centuries have symbolised so much and continue to do so - many using their flower as an emblem.

Jenny used a poppy on the cover for her Emily Hobhouse book "To Love One's Enemies" ... with a white daisy ... both found in the veld of South Africa.

Lovely comments - Hilary

Paula RC said...

What amazing thing to find poppies which came from those awful times. We are watching those amazing men and women who are willing to put their lives on the line for the rest of us.

Unknown said...

In Canada, Remembrance Day is celebrated but because the Wars happened long before our birth, no one in my generation truly understands what went on at that time. It's nice that people have left us so much history behind for the next generations. Thank you so much for your research. I love poppies.

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

@ Jarmara .. it is extraordinary to think that poppies from 95 years ago can still turn up. I went up to the Nursing Home this morning for the Cenotaph Service - but my Mama was asleep - I shall go for the highlights programme and see if she awakes for that. The Service and parades with all the organisations represented bring home much .. very evocative ...

@ Clarissa - I think you're right in your thoughts and as your country is miles away from Europe that makes it even more difficult to bring home - the sacrifices made by so many ..

Film, theatre, books, stories and blogs will open doors if people care to look -

These two poppies with their artistic history - the drawings and paintings, as well as the subsequent book and reports .. give us another insight.

Poppies are glorious - thanks Jarmara and Clarissa - cheers Hilary

Manzanita said...

Hilary, I always wonder what motivates a young soldier to pick a poppy and press it in a book. Nothing much saddens me these days, but I do get choked up when young people celebrate this holiday but don't know why. Oh well, I think that's the way of youth and change. I always sold the "Buddy Poppy" that was slightly different and was the poppy of the "Veterans of Foreign Wars" where my Father was very active. Thanks for remembering.

Empty Nest Insider said...

These poppies really are beautiful. The touching story about the soldier was a perfect tribute for Veterans Day. I'm glad that your mother had a good weekend, and I hope that she has many more of the same. Julie

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

@ Manzanita - I guess they wanted something to be happy about .. to love .. that was pretty .. and if they were diarists, journal takers or artists .. then 'a record' too .. for when they got home.

Certainly we don't appreciate what adults are doing for us in wars .. I know I didn't fully understand. Freedom is so important ... with a chance of having a fair life .. and choices.

This year the Cenotaph Remembrance Service definitely involved more Service Associations .. so it looks like the British, Commonwealth Associations were gathered together to remember.

@ thanks Julie .. both soldier's stories are worth remembering aren't they ..

Thanks re my mother .. the most important thing is - that she's comfortable and then she can interact if she has the energy .. sometimes yes sometimes no! But happy with the company.

Many thanks Manzanita and Julie - have good weeks .. Hilary

Anonymous said...

I remember making pressed flowers and leaves as a kid in school. Sometimes we would melt crayon shavings as a backdrop too.

Now I want to continue the tradition with my kids. Off now to pick some of my neighbors flowers. They should be at work by now.

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Stephen .. I've never heard of melting crayon shavings to give a backdrop .. but a very obvious thing to do - must have made your art work different. We must have pressed flowers - but obviously I don't think we were very successful!

Good for you - for wanting to repeat the process with your kids - hope the kids don't see you running next door to get the flowers?! Hope they enjoy it ..

Cheers Hilary

Anonymous said...

Amen! A great post Hilary. May God bless and protect our military men and women.

Thanks for your recent comment on My Blog

Take care and have a wonderful week :-)

Anonymous said...

What a lovely collection of poppies each with history of their own & varied stories to tell.
We always buy poppies and I also have a metal pin badge poppy.

My brother was born on 11th November.

I wrote a short story about a soldier and his girlfriend, which is awaiting the correct venue to be published.

Did you see that fascinating programme about art therapy for soldiers suffering from PTSD and how it has helped those who have suffered the condition for decades.

Scarlett Clay said...

Such a heart felt momento...a simple pressed flower carries so much meaning and history, I love hearing about these. There's a wonderful children's book I just want to mention if anyone is interested in passing this history along to the younger generations... "In Flander's Fields" by Wilson/Granfield, very well done and presented for young readers.

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

@ Ron - many thanks for coming by .. this time of year it is essential for us to remember - as many of us do. You too have a good week.

@ Madeleine - Buying poppies from or collecting for the British Royal Legion - is a part of our custom here in the UK. I don't have a metal pin poppy badge though ... Happy Birthday little brother ..

I hope your short story sees the light of day and is successfully received.

I did see most of that programme about art therapy .. it was very interesting - well worth watching. So the artists (Len Smith and Cecil Roughton) were releasing their creativity even in their darkest hour ... and I'm sure it helped them through those times.

Thanks Madeleine for mentioning the programme: BBC2's art-heroes-culture-show-special

@ Scarlett - thank you for the information on the children's teaching aid .. The Story of the Poem "In Flanders Fields" by Linda Granfield (author) and Janet Wilson (illustrator) ...

The book's description says: "The lines of the celebrated poem are interwoven with fascinating information about the First World War, details of daily life in the trenches, accounts of McCrae's experience in his field hospital, and the circumstances that led to the writing of "In Flanders Fields." "

Thanks Scarlett - could be a very good teaching aid .. hospital, WW1, poetry, daily life on the front .. etc etc

Great seeing you all here - thank you .. have a good week .. Hilary

Talli Roland said...

Thank you, Hilary -- and for including one of the most poignant poems I've ever read. My eyes always well up when I hear it; as a Canadian, we had to memorise it in primary school.

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Talli .. Blogger lost my comment!

I don't think I'd come across the poem properly before .. so I really wanted to post it here. It is a very moving poem with some wonderful words - even more remarkable that he survived.

I loved the details for the children's book in Scarlett's comment above and the details I gave in the reply.

I can understand your eyes welling up - memories at that age, seem to stick with us so much and affect us for years to come. We had Jerusalem as our anthem at school .. it's a bit over-egged now! - but it can bring tears to my eyes too ..

Thanks for your memories of primary school .. and Canadian home times .. Cheers Hilary

Sara said...

Thanks for this post. I came from another site reminding us about the meaning of Veteran's Day here in the States.

I loved the story about poppies and how soldiers saved them. It's sad that a beautiful field of poppies, like the picture you show, can become a place of death.

My dad was a surgeon in WWII. He served in Iwo Jima. My brother was in Viet Nam. Neither men talk about what they experienced.

Wars have a way of silencing everyone, don't they?

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Sara .. good to see you - there have been many stories of bloggers family members - and it is interesting to read about. Thank you for letting us know about your father and brother .. it certainly does seem to be a trait of post-war .. you put the ghastliness of it behind you .. and 'forget' ...

Perhaps dying for your country in a field ... where the poppies will grow each year - is a peaceful place to be ... always remembered.

The appallingness of War must be terrible, but the camaraderie something else to be remembered. There are still personal histories being told - though we had the last of our WW1 veterans last year .. there were none this year.

Thanks Sara .. and for your comment with its interesting points .. cheers Hilary

Anonymous said...

Another inspiring post Hilary - I feel I must read that book. My grandfather fought in the Battle of the Somme, as did my husband's grandfather. (The latter lied about his age and joined up when he was only fifteen) We often wonder if they ever met. Both survived and lived to ripe old ages. My grandfather used to talk of the Christmas Day ceasefire and how they swapped gifts and played football with the enemy. It sounded like a fairy tale yet now we know it to be true. Thank you for this Hilary!

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Deborah - I agree .. we probably should all read that book .. and especially the young of today - to realise how some lived for those years (conditions, rations, lack of water at times etc etc) .. but could see the beauty.

It was incredible that true story about the Christmas Day ceasefire .. fascinating to see as a documentary film.

They certainly set us a lesson and a standard to live up to .. very interesting to read about both your grandfathers and I'm so pleased they survived and lived to ripe old ages - good to know.

Many thanks Deborah for commenting - cheers Hilary

Slamdunk said...

Excellent tribute Hilary--and sorry I am late.

I have not heard the "In Flanders fields..." poem in a long time. Thanks for sharing.

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

H Slam Dunks .. no worries - I'm pleased I posted that poem .. it resonates so well ..

I'm just amazed that journals and poppies keep appearing - giving us yet other insights into a very difficult War ...

Good to see you - Hilary

amy@ Souldipper said...

The tenderness of the human spirit. Imagine men, in that scene of horror, taking time to press a flower! The contrast is heartbreaking.

Hmmm...years ago (early 1970s) I had a client in Edmonton by the name of Lady Nora Montague. Do you think she may have come from the family so noted?

We had to be very careful with her. She would forget that we'd given her cash which she would put in her purse. She'd get in her chauffeur-driven car, then pop out with great pomp and roar in to accuse us of forgetting to give her the money. We'd quietly ask her to look in the compartment into which we had carefully observed her placing the bills.

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Amy - thanks so much for this comment - you are so right about the tenderness of the human spirit versus the horror of that war in particular - the trenches must have been monstrous.

Interesting re Lady Nora Montague .. this village was taken by the Normans ..and kept its name .. though Shepton for sheep was added .. as names described places or people.

Shepton Montague sounds as though it has an interesting history ..

However your 'Lady' too sounds as though she had a great deal of character .. someone you'll never forget ...

Thanks for coming by .. and adding to the conversation .. Hilary

Theresa Milstein said...

I'm sorry I missed it.

What a powerful poem. I love using the poppies as a symbol. Thanks for sharing this information.

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Theresa .. it's the 'same' as your Veterans' Day' ...

John Macrae's poem is very evocative isn't it .. and poppies are just so beautiful in their ephemeral state, with their everlasting seeds ..

Glad you enjoyed the post - Hilary