Armistice Day

When small I realised that my birthday was marked by poppies.  My parents would take me to the war memorial in my home town.  We’d stand there, heads bowed, silent as annually dwindling numbers of old men marched past. 

My great grandfather was at the Somme, awarded the DSO, a leg blown off as he manned a machine gun.  He died when I was very young.  I remember the vivid shade of his ochre coloured cardigan, his glasses, his bald head – the stuffed toy frog that sat on his chair after he died.

My grandfather was at Arnhem.  He died just after my Ordinary grade examinations.  He didn’t talk about the War to me, to my sisters, but we have a tape recording of him – talking about his comrades booby-trapped, crying – screaming – for help – and not being able to, being completely impotent.

My birthday is bitterweet.  

I remember.

At the Cenotaph by Siegfried Sassoon

I saw the Prince of Darkness, with his Staff,
Standing bare-headed by the Cenotaph:
Unostentatious and respectful, there
He stood, and offered up the following prayer.
    “Make them forget, O Lord, what this Memorial
       Means; their discredited ideas revive;
    Breed new belief that War is purgatorial
        Proof of the pride and power of being alive;
    Men’s biologic urge to readjust
        The Map of Europe, Lord of Hosts, increase;
    Lift up their hearts in large destructive lust;
        And crown their heads with blind vindictive Peace.”
The Prince of Darkness to the Cenotaph 
Bowed.  As he walked away I heard him laugh.”

(Collected Poems p 201)

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About loveandgarbage

I watch the telly and read when not doing law stuff and plugging my decade and a half old unwatched Edinburgh fringe show.
This entry was posted in armistice day, poems, Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Armistice Day

  1. My gread-grandfather was killed at Passchendaele; the best teacher I ever had had been a tail-end Charlie in Bomber Command and was was aircrew when the 1st Airborne Division were dropped at Arnhem. My grandfather on one side fought up and down North Africa and then all the way up Italy, eventually shelling the crap out of Monte Cassino; my grandfather on the other side got TB for King and Country after years in the Royal Horse Artillery mostly in India. He was always going to become a Chelsea Pensioner if he outlived my grandmother; it worked out the other way round.
    We will never escape wars. And we must never forget them.

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