I wrote about Remembrance Sunday here on 13 November 2013, this is part of that article.
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
A WOMAN’S TRIBUTE
The Message of the Double Line of Khaki; From the London Times, October 18, 1921
In Westminster Abbey, yesterday, General Pershing laid the American Medal of Honour upon the grave of the Unknown Soldier of Britain. The bright sunlight streamed through the high stained-glass windows in long shafts of light that fell warm upon the grey stone of the Gothic arches, upon the quiet people in the Nave, and around the flower-strewn tomb, and that lay in a cloth of scarlet on the flag above the body of the Unknown Dead.
A thousand years of great history stood silent within those old walls. Close by are the tombs of Norman, Plantagenet, Tudor, and Stuart Kings and Queens, of the priests, and soldiers and the sailors, of the poets and statesmen that have made England great.
As the organ filled the sunlit spaces of the ancient church with its deep volume of sound, there marched up the aisle, with bared heads, a detachment of British soldiers from the Guard’s regiments. As they formed a line facing the centre, an equal number of American soldiers, bare-headed, marched up the other side, and turning, stood facing the British soldiers across the narrow aisle.
Both lines of khaki, both lines of straight and young and clear-eyed boys, both lines of men of Anglo-Saxon blood, of the same standards and of the same ideals they stood there in the sunlight in that shrine of a thousand years of memory, looking straight into each other’s eyes.
Between them, up the aisle, marched the choir in their scarlet vestments with their bright cross on high, the generals, the admirals, and the Ministers of the Empire, and the Ambassador and the Commanding General of the Great Republic but in all that they represented, and in all that was said in the ceremonies that followed, there was no such potent symbol as those two lines of khaki- clad boys, with the sun shining on their bared heads, their brave young faces, and their strong young bodies, looking each other straight in the face.Between them lay, not the narrow aisle, but a thousand leagues of sea, the building of a new world, the birth of a new destiny for man. But as they stood there where they could have touched hands in the old Abbey which was a shrine for their common ancestors, they were so amazingly alike in bearing and appearance that they ceased to be a detachment of soldiers from two different countries, and they became a symbol of the illimitable potentiality of a common heritage that heritage of which the ancient Abbey was a shrine the heritage of the ideals of freedom, of order, of self-discipline, of self-respect.
If any words spoken in the Abbey could have conveyed a hundredth part of what that double line of clear- eyed boys said in utter silence the world would have been a happier place to-day. The old strength and the new force of a common heritage stood in khaki in the aisle of Westminster Abbey bare-headed, to honour the symbol of supreme sacrifice to those ideals in the Cross of Christ and in the body of an Unknown Soldier.
The service included this.
Kind of the cousins, who have always been so gracious. I wonder if they also sang this, which was new that year.
It has been a very long century since that last quiet August weekend of the Edwardian Age. It has been filled far too often with the roar of the guns, and the rattle of musketry followed by the sounding of the Last Post. But the mission has been maintained, it will never be won, although we can and should pray that it will be less horrific going forward. But all around the world, freedom-loving people have learned of the steadfast valor even unto death of English-speaking soldiers, sailors, marines, and airmen. We are proud of our part, yes. But we are equally proud to be your allies and friends.
Has it been worth it? The citizen of Ypres, Belgium seem to think so. Every night at 8:00pm since 2 July 1928, except during the German occupation in World War II, they have executed this ceremony, and when the Polish forces liberated them in 1944, they resumed, while heavy fighting was still going on in the city. While under occupation in World War II the ceremony took place at Brookwood Military Cemetery, in Surrey, England.
Just this week, our President presented postumously to Colonel Rick Rescorla’s, the Great Anglo-American hero of 9/11, responsible for saving at least 2700 people that day, widow Susan, the Presidential Citizens Medal. Col Rescorla was a veteran of the British Army, a paratrooper who fought on Cypress and in Rhodesia, then emigrated to the US and led a platoon at the First Battle of Ia Drang, in Vietnam, in 1965. You will find his picture on the cover of We Were Soldiers Once, and Young. . To quote Nina Bookout of Victory Girls Blog,
Mostly he sang dirty songs that would make a sailor blush. Interspersed with the lyrics was the voice of command: ‘Fix bayonets…on liiiiine…reaaaa-dy…forward.’ It was a voice straight from Waterloo, from the Somme, implacable, impeccable, impossible to disobey. His men forgot their fear, concentrated on his orders and marched forward as he led them straight into the pages of history: 1st Platoon, Bravo Company, 2nd Battalion, 7th Cavalry…’Hard Corps.’”
I would ad that voice was also heard at Roark’s Drift, for both at the Ia Drang Valley in 1965, and in the stairway of WTC 2 on September 11, 2001 he was heard singing this:
“”Men of Cornwall stop your dreaming
Can’t you see their spear points gleaming?
See their warriors’ pennants streaming
To this battlefield.
Men of Cornwall stand ye steady
It cannot be ever said ye
for the battle were not ready.
STAND AND NEVER YIELD!“
– “Men of Harlech”
He was last seen heading back up the stairs of the tower. More, including the president’s remarks, here.
For The Fallen
With proud thanksgiving, a mother for her children,
England mourns for her dead across the sea.
Flesh of her flesh they were, spirit of her spirit,
Fallen in the cause of the free.
Solemn the drums thrill; Death august and royal
Sings sorrow up into immortal spheres,
There is music in the midst of desolation
And a glory that shines upon our tears.
They went with songs to the battle, they were young,
Straight of limb, true of eye, steady and aglow.
They were staunch to the end against odds uncounted;
They fell with their faces to the foe.
They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years contemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.
They mingle not with their laughing comrades again;
They sit no more at familiar tables of home;
They have no lot in our labour of the day-time;
They sleep beyond England’s foam.
But where our desires are and our hopes profound,
Felt as a well-spring that is hidden from sight,
To the innermost heart of their own land they are known
As the stars are known to the Night;
As the stars that shall be bright when we are dust,
Moving in marches upon the heavenly plain;
As the stars that are starry in the time of our darkness,
To the end, to the end, they remain.