On the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month many millions of people around the world stop whatever they are doing.
Stop to take a moment from their hectic lives to pay their respects to the fallen. To those who paid the ultimate price to ensure that our busy lives can continue day by day with hardly a beat missed.
The 11th November 1918 saw the signing of the armistice treaty that officially brought an end to World War 1.
One year later in the grounds of Buckingham palace King George V hosted the first service of remembrance to commemorate the signing of the treaty and this became a national tradition. Two minutes silence is observed, the first minute is a time for reflection and give thanks for those who sacrificed so much, and the second is a time to draw your thoughts back to the living, to those who were left behind, the families who lost so much.
In 1939 the traditional armistice day services were moved to the closest Sunday to the 11th in order that production for the next Great War would not be interrupted. This continues to this day, although in recent years the focus has once again shifted back to the day itself.
Inspired by the poem ‘In Flanders Fields’ written in 1915 by Major John McCrae, the poppy has become a symbolic item worn by many as a mark of respect for those who perished and those who still serve. In the United Kingdom, remembrance poppies are sold by The Royal British Legion (RBL). This is a charity providing financial, social, political and emotional support to those who have served or who are currently serving in the British Armed Forces, and their dependents.
This year is the 100 year anniversary of the commencement of world war 1 and there have been many events organised in commemoration of this. By far the most striking is an instillation at the Tower of London titled ‘‘, designed and created by Tom Piper and ceramic artistPaul Cummins There are 888,246 ceramic poppies that cover the lawns of the tower, one for each of the British and commonwealth lives that were lost in the conflict. The last of which was placed there today by a 13 year old army cadet.
The many people that I know that have seen it have all been moved in different ways by the piece, I have only seen it in photographs, but have been similarly moved. The sheer scale of the piece brings into sharp focus just how many lives were lost.
There has been much controversy in recent years about the political nature of wearing a poppy, but for me it is not a political statement, but a personal one. It gives a focus to my thoughts and I have a deep and emotional attachment to it.
During my life as an ex-pat it has become quite a mission to secure my remembrance day poppy. Although the poppy is a recognised symbol in mainland Europe, actually finding one was nigh impossible.
When we lived in France it was a simple matter of asking my mother to pop some in the post, but the mail delivery here in Thailand has proved to be somewhat hit and miss. And last years were hastily cobbled together from craft paper and pins. This year I was a little more organised and made crochet poppies to wear.
This morning I made sure that my hustle and bustle was completed in time for me to head to a local park where I could spend a contemplative few minutes in the tranquility of the flower garden alone with my thoughts. But it turns out I was not alone. There was an elderly gentleman who approached me as i meandered along to the coffee shop. He stopped me and in very broken English told me I looked sad and asked if I was ok. In VERY broken thai I told him I was fine and we sat and had a conversation only made difficult by the language barrier. My thai lessons are going well but I’m not yet up to discussing the geo-political nature of global conflict, so I did the best I could to explain why I was here and what my wooly poppy was for. It took a while, but the understanding in his eyes spoke more than words. When we parted he took my hand and said; “War is bad, you remember- is very good”
They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.
Jer Gan Mai
*I am a huge fan of this exceptionaly talented urban photographer. Please take a moment to look at the work of Michael P Mulcahy at Innercitylifelondon.