Remembrance Day 2008

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As each year passes and my two sons turn from boys into men, Remembrance Day becomes more poignant. They are now 16 and 17 and so are the age of some of those who fought in the Great War.  I cannot begin to imagine how I would have dealt with their loss had I been in the position of so many families during that time.

I am very proud of my sons generally, but I am particulary proud at this time of their attitude towards Remembrance Day.  For years they have both attended Remembrance Day parades with the scouts, this year was the first I can remember for 10 years when we havent been to one (they have both left the scouts now).  Both boys have been to the First World War battlefields and graves as part of their history GCSE work.  Both were affected by what they saw.  I remember one of their teachers saying that in 20 years of running the week long trip they had never had a student who had not been affected in some way.  I think it is particularly relevant to them since they see graves of soliders who were only a couple of years older than them – they have friends of these ages.  The thing that overwhelmed them the most was the size of the graveyards – one of them Matt said it didnt matter what direction you looked in all you saw was graves.  They were also stunned by the vast number of soliders who had not been found.  On the Menin Gate, there are inscribed the names of soliders who havent been found and when a body or remains are found the name is removed.  Matt said there were a number of places where names had been removed but the number left was overwhelming. Another aspect of the trip was that some of the students had traced relatives who had died in the battles and where possible were able to visit their graves – Matt accompanied one of his friends to visit a lost relative and found this particularly moving.

Matt and I have watched some television coverage this week from the battlefields, a special BBC event since it is 90 years since the end of World War One this week and it is clear how his visit has affected him.  He and some of his school colleagues were invited to write blogs about their visit on the local BBC website and they make interesting reading.  Matt’s is entitled ‘Family Loss’. 

So when people talk about kids of today and their lack of respect I remind them that not all kids are the same and my sons and some of their friends do respect their elders and do understand the significance of Remembrance Day and hopefully will pass this onto their children.  As my son said its important that people learn from the past.

7 Comments on “Remembrance Day 2008

  1. It’s a smart thing you’ve done to help your sons reconnect with their past history. Was anyone in your family in that war, Helen? I bet so. I am the family historian and do all the genealogical research for my family. After awhile the ancestors become very real and you become aware of their presence in your life. I have lit candles for ancestors who died in the Civil War and for their widows. It’s a very touching ritual. My father was on Normandy Beach and in the Battle of the Bulge. Fortunately he’s still here,lucid, intelligent and I can call him today and tell him how proud I am of My Veteran. Thanks for this lovely tribute. The flower is perfect. 🙂

  2. It’s sad that in the US, WWI is virtually forgotten. I suppose if the battlefields were closer, more people would be able to have the experiences shared by your sons. The only veteran in my family was my paternal grandfather, who served in WWI. I remember him telling stores of his time in the foxholes. In many ways, it was a more brutal & senseless war than any other of the past 100 years. I’m glad it’s not forgotten in the UK & Europe.

  3. We do need to remember our history, and to forget WWI and the trenches would be a terrible thing. Do you know Paul Fussell’s book The Great War and Modern Memory? It’s 35 years old, but still wonderful.

    I’m surrounded by young people– 2 sons (a few years older than yours), my university students, and students living next door–so fortunately I’m surrounded by reminders that most generalizations about “kids these days” don’t hold.

    Your two certainly sound like myth-busters. No wonder you’re proud.
    –Kate

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