On a visit to London this week, I took the opportunity to pop along to Westminster to take a look at the Cenotaph which is a focus of Remembrance Sunday ceremonies in Britain. The London Cenotaph is in Whitehall,a wide street that houses many headquarters of government departments, and links the Palace of Westminster (Houses of Parliament) and Trafalgar Square. The Cenotaph was erected in memory of the fallen of World War 1, but has since been engraved with the dates of both WW1 and WW2. It is however used to commemorate the fallen in all wars and it is here that they are remembered on the 2nd Sunday of November each year. Millions watch the poignant ceremony on television as Big Ben tolls the 11th hour, beginning the minute’s silence which is followed by the sounding of the Last Post.
The wreaths make a colourful display that is retained for a number of weeks.
Just a short distance down the road at Westminster Abbey there is the Field of Remembrance memorial garden, organized by the British Legion. First begun in 1928, the lawn is marked out in 250 – 300 plots, where poppy crosses are planted in memory of regiments and armed services associations. The Field of Remembrance is located in front of Westminster Abbey and alongside St Margaret’s Church which is right beside the Abbey.
I think that it is hardly possible to look at the vast numbers of crosses planted here in each plot and not deplore the waste of – mostly young – human life. In particular it is hard to look at the plots of regiments involved in recent and ongoing conflicts where there are often photographs of laughing, smiling handsome young men,whose only presence on earth is now denoted by a small wooden cross. Regardless of feelings about the rights and wrongs of particular conflicts, I am left with a sense of appalling waste of life and deprivation of families and communities that each cross represents.
But the past is just the same-and War’s a bloody game…
Have you forgotten yet?…
Look down, and swear by the slain of the War that you’ll never forget. – Siegfried Sasoon ( 1919)