Armistice Day 2017 marked nearly 100 years to the day since the Third Battle of Ypres, also known as Passchendaele, ended. It was, in fact, 100 years and 1 day.
The battle began at 3.50am on 31 July 1917 when 2000 Allied guns opened up on German lines, prompting a three month campaign in which it’s thought that over half a million men from both sides were injured or killed.
One hundred years on, Passchendaele is still remembered through the war poet Siegfried Sassoon.
Squire nagged and bullied till I went to fight,
(Under Lord Derby’s Scheme). I died in hell—
(They called it Passchendaele). My wound was slight,
And I was hobbling back; and then a shell
Burst slick upon the duck-boards: so I fell
Into the bottomless mud, and lost the light.
At sermon-time, while Squire is in his pew,
He gives my gilded name a thoughtful stare:
For, though low down upon the list, I’m there;
‘In proud and glorious memory’ … that’s my due.
Two bleeding years I fought in France, for Squire:
I suffered anguish that he’s never guessed.
Once I came home on leave: and then went west…
What greater glory could a man desire?
It was the first verse of that poem that came to mind as I attended the Remembrance Service at the Memorial Monument in Southport. It was bitterly cold, but I’d be able to go a warm coffee shop or pub or home and relax and warm up again.
The people we were remembering had to battle with horrible conditions day after day after day, with the very real chance that they would never make it home or to the pub.
I’m not sure who it was that was speaking at the service earlier (I couldn’t see and didn’t have an order of service), but he noted that to younger generations now, war is not a real thing like it was to their parents and grandparents. I was looking at the cadets and the teenagers in their uniforms and wondering how real the possibility of having to go to war is for them. I thought of myself as I limped away with the sore muscle in my backside I complained about in a post earlier today and thought how unprepared I would be.
I thought how great it is, in a way, that war isn’t as real nowadays. I thought how possible it is to wage war nowadays without a loss of life when technology is so important to how we live. And then I thought how, despite all that, we still live in a world where we have to think about defending ourselves because people still want to kill in the name of a certain ideology.
To all those that are prepared to stand up to protect us – thank you. To all those have given up their own life to give me the one I have – thank you. Lest we forget.