Memorials – by Alan Kelly
One of the lasting results of the First World War has been that every year on Armistice Day remembrance services are held throughout the world to remind us that war is brutal and horrifying.
Unfortunately various governments have thought war was necessary.
As one munitions worker wrote “the fact that I am using my life energy to destroy human souls gets on my nerves. Yet on the other hand, I am doing what I can to bring this terrible affair to an end”
Memorials were used before WW1. In St John’s Gardens stands a huge memorial to the Liverpool Kings Regiment from the Boer War. Most date from WW1 and a very impressive memorial stand in Port Sunlight Village.
St George’s Hall Plateau
At the end of WW1 a temporary wooden cenotaph was built on St Georges Plateau. In 1926 a competition was held to create a memorial using public funds. From 257 entrants, Lionel Budden emerged as the winner.
The Cenotaph was unveiled at 11am, 11th November, 1930, by the Earl of Derby. The cenotaph was initially a Grade II Listed building. It’s status was raised to Grade I in 2013.
Poppies at the Tower of London
Created by Artists Paul Cumming and Tom Piper, the 888,246 ceramic poppies represent each British and Commonwealth soldier who died in WW1.
Now we have the weeping window at Liverpool’s St Georges Hall, support for remembrance is still strong from the public, but there are still other issues to consider.
Opinions are Changing
The Shot at Dawn campaign goes from strength to strength. Were those shot at down cowards, traitors, or victims. All 306 soldiers shot for cowardice or desertion were granted posthumous pardons, and a memorial to them now stands at the National Arboretum.
Incidentally not one Australian soldier was shot. Despite please from Field Marshal Haig, who wished to maintain discipline, Australia would not allow Haig to have the last word.
The White Poppy
The white poppy, though not supported by the Royal British Legion, occasionally makes an appearance at cenotaphs.
Legionnaires will disuade people from laying white poppies on Remembrance Day services and invite people to lay their poppies after the parade.
Holding a Short Remembrance Day service at the Royal British Legion, The clergy remarked “We do not lay wreathes but bunches of flowers”. Members insisted on wreathes or they wold hold their own service.
County Mayo Peace Park
In 2008 I visited County Mayo to attend the opening, by the president of Ireland Mary McAleese, of the County Mayo Peace Park. Remembrance services were first held in Mayo in 1999 after research showed a significant number of County Mayo soldiers were killed in both World Wars.
Criticism has been received due to the fact that none of the dead in the Irish War of Independence or the Easter Rising have been commemorated. A commemoration to a VC Holder from the Indian Mutiny was described as a war crime. Speaking to various Irish People the fact that they can now mourn their dead brings some comfort.
It was impossible for Irishmen who had served in the British Army to return home after the wars, they were considered to be traitors to the Irish People.
During the early day of the second Battle of Ypres a young Canadian Artillery Officer – Lt Alexis Helmer – was killed. This was on the 2nd May 1915. In the gun position near ypres an exploding German artillery shell had landed near him, with fatal results. He was servingin the same unit as a friend of his. The friend was a Canadian Doctor and Artillery Commander Major John McCrae. The Majorasked to conduct the burial services. After the service McCrae began the draft for his now famous poem In Flanders Fields
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.