Remembrance Day is my mother in law’s birthday. It’s always marked in our calendar, so I don’t miss it. I remember her birthday and then I remember to mark eleven o’clock. On the eleventh day of the eleventh month at the eleventh hour all the guns fell silent on the Western Front after four years of fighting. An armistice or peace agreement was signed that day and remembrance day was celebrated. (Initially though the day was called armistice day but changed after World War Two to remember all those that died.) I don’t think those that were there on that day would ever forget that moment.
An interesting question is posed when we have Remembrance Day and ANZAC day about why remember? When I ask my children, they don’t really know, they just know it’s important. But our school had a soldier that fought in Afghanistan come and talk about what he went through and that made an impact on my eldest. She remembers what he said and it has given her some tangible idea that there is still war today and it still is important to remember. Trying to find the significance of World War One is a little bit harder for all us now that the last veteran died in 2011. But knowing that that World War One mobilised an estimated 72 million troops around the world and effected half of the world’s population is an overwhelming to comprehend.
I have a great uncle Horace Sanderson that fought in World War One. I found a letter that he wrote begging the army to let him disembark with his friends from Sydney. He was only eighteen and two months instead of eighteen and six months but tells the army that he is used to ‘roughing it’ and wouldn’t have started training if he wasn’t going to be with his friends. His youthful and naïve spirit wasn’t going to give in to being too young. He disembarked on the 25th September 1918 for London. He went onto Rouelles in France and was there from 29th November 1918. His company spent a great deal of their time repairing roads and towns. He returned to England in 1919 and was discharged later that year after arriving home. He was one of the lucky ones, to return home. Australia lost 61,514 people from World War One and the causality rate was 64.8% of the troops that disembarked died. Over the 1560 days of war around 38 Australians died every day.
Many soldiers have come home to return to their normal lives. I think that must be even harder than fighting. To remember all those things that they can’t talk about. To try to reconcile with killing others and fearing for their lives. The poppies to mark remembrance day are what grew up first in the fields where the soldiers died. Many of the soldiers felt that the poppies were stained with the blood of the fallen soldiers. The poppies are sold by the RSL to support the soldiers that returned home. Currently the Tower of London is marking the 100 year anniversary of World War One with hand made ceramic poppies. There will be 888 246 of them to represent all those British soldiers that died. So beautiful but such a waste of lives.
Hopefully all these celebrations of death can help us all remember to cherish our lives today. I pinned my girls poppies on their uniforms today and was partly thankful that they don’t know about war. Read my great uncle’s letter; very well written for a seventeen year old but disturbing to know what he was really headed for.