Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Lest We Forget

On the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month, we keep a minute's silence in memory of those who died or suffered in all wars and armed conflicts.

I mostly spent my minute of silence thinking solemnly and sadly of the sacrifices and suffering caused by war. But as I was in a classroom full of 7-and-8 year-olds who were trying to keep quiet for a whole sixty seconds, I admit that I was, to some degree, stifling rueful laughter. Some of them (my son included) were inspired to join in with trumpety noises during the Last Post, others twitched and wriggled and whispered to their friends. They tried, they sort of know the significance of the moment, but they are so young still, and they can't really grasp it. They spontaneously applauded when the Last Post finished, whereupon their teacher gently informed them that clapping was not appropriate. And they cheered when the announcement went up that they could now go to playlunch. As one of the teachers remarked later to me, it's a very long minute.

These kids can't really fathom the significance of Remembrance Day because they live in a peaceful country in relatively peaceful times. This is something I feel enormously grateful for. I am hopeful that I will never witness my boys pitting their frail and vulnerable flesh against the savagery of man-made weapons, but there are no guarantees, and it could happen any way, any day; in a tall building, on a train, in a bar on the beach. A future free of the barbarity of war is why we do and should commemorate this day and why we keep saying to each other Never Forget.

My grandfather, when he was a lieutenant in the Royal Australian Navy Volunteer Reserve. This picture was taken in 1942, with my grandmother and my aunt. He was 31 years old and had been married only 2 years. He survived the war.


  1. As I was driving this afternoon I noticed a sticker on the window of the car in front of me. It said "In loving memory of our son Chris [Surname] 1973-2007 U.S Marines." I have children that age. I can't even imagine the heartbreak that young man's death brought to all who loved him. All because we can't seem to conduct ourselves peacefully in the world, and always seem to be sending young men [barely shaving yet]off to fight old men's battles for them.....

  2. Lovely post Stomper.

    Lest we Forget.


  3. I only had 1 year 10 kid who made noise. (She was trying to get something out of her pocket.) By the time they're 16 they know how to behave.

  4. :(

    Beautifully written.

    We have a lot of war books here - I learn much through AB, who attends lectures and studies maps of France and researches history. Sometimes, in bed, when i'm reading Phillippa Gregory, and he's reading Les Carlyon, the passages he reads me out loud are just too horrific to hear or comprehend. So very, very sad.

    But as a kid, I must admit ... I didn't get it .. bring on the playlunch already...

  5. I am yet to hear how the remembrance day ceremony went at school today. All I know was that Bloss said the deputy principal came into band to ask for all the "good trumpet players to see him please".

    Thanks for this lovely post. :)

  6. This year I stood at the memorial at Villers Bretonneux and sobbed at the 46 000 names of Australian soldiers etched on the walls of sandstone.

    Lest we forget.

  7. I forgot.

    No, actually, I really did.

    I didn't even know.

    Which is not exactly the same thing, is it?

  8. In a funny way, I hope my boys never have to fully understand the horrors of the world wars... because to fully understand, it would probably mean they'd be in the middle of a third one.

    And I don't want that for them.

    But we will always remember the sacrifices that our families made.

  9. My son was home sick today and very ruefully kicked his feet and said under his breath, "Oh, and I probably missed the party today." I had to remind him that no, there was no party, just a moment to remember all that has passed. And to think hard about how we make our choices from here on out.

  10. I visited the War Memorial in Canberra last year and cried my eyes out.
    Although its so hard for us to comprehend how terrible it must have been, its good that we try.

  11. BTW,
    youngest son asked if Remembrance Day is for the war Pop (my Dad) died in.
    Uh, son, he's not dead.
    Oh yeah, I forgot.


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