Commemoration

Commemoration is seen as something more associated with the fallen heroes of World War One. It is sprinkled across our consciousness. In village halls and cemeteries. In churches and villages across the land. The memorials that sprung up after the end of the war were one symbol of that joint commemoration – to immortalise those who didn’t come home at the end of the war.

But for many commemoration was a chance to say thank you. An opportunity to express the gratitude when men and women you never knew, fought on behalf of you, for you. Returning employees were greeted with high teas and cash gifts. A local expression of a thank you that never seemed quite enough.

The servicemen and women were issued with medals, bravery awards and citations from a grateful government and nation. All too often these found their way into pawn shops.

Men who died on their return – some were given the full honours of a military funeral. They deserved nothing less.

But for most – commemoration was the patronage of the ‘Poppy Day’ – inaugurated in 1919 it was an annual reminder of Armistice Day. A reminder of the cost of war but also a reminder about the responsibilities of war. The ex-servicemen and women who served only to return to face personal, economic, social and physical issues long after the war had ended.

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Reminders and Memorials

I have a thing about war memorials.

They for me represent more than just the physical sculpture, more than just names, of wars gone by and the dead. They represent an emotion, feelings – more than the expected remembrance but a realisation of consequence, of respecting the individual more than the outcome or the event.

Each memorial differs just slightly in specific location, in site, in design. Celtic crosses are beloved, as are the simple cross on hexagonal base. Granite and marble, sandstone or glass. They are often worth a study or simple assessment.

You would have to imagine the vicar or priest, the archbishop or dignitary, the MP or relatives of the departed gathered around in a smaller or lesser throng of committed local citizens when it was put in situ. And then to perceive of the many years of coming and going, of wreaths, flowers, a passing nod, a removal of cap or a falling tear.
Across the land in city or in high peaks, these monuments of recognition stand year on year.

A lesson in admiration for me; in commitment, in durability in time.

An acknowledgement by the living for the dead, and a enduring reminder for the living by the dead.

You returned; I did not.

So it says: Great deeds never die

How many times have I seen this on a memorial, on a grave stone or in a memorium?

Great deeds never die.

Written about the dead but never truer than in consequence to the survivors of the first great war.

Great deeds never die.

Not all men died. Their deeds did not disappear. Their deeds were carried with them onwards in life. But seemingly the deeds of the living were not as great as the deeds of the dead.

Does the ultimate sacrifice need to take place before the acts of the living be labelled as great?

Great deeds never die. No – they live on in the minds of those who survived. To haunt? To remind? To seek a kind of fatalistic karmic vengeance?

Great deeds never die. Survivors of wars need no praise. But maybe also not seen in the same light as the dead.