Monday, 28 July 2014

We will remember them: Introduction to an occasional series

At the going down of the sun and in the morning, We will remember them
At eleven am on this day 100 years ago Austria declared war on Serbia. Due to the interconnectiveness of treaties across Europe within a week we had most of the major powers declaring they would be taking part in the Great War, the First World War.

I knew that a number of my great uncles had served in the Second World War, but all of them had survived to tell the tale. Though very few of them talked about it much. But with an interest in the family genealogy I was always wondering if any of the family had fought and died in that first world war. The earliest bits of the family tree seemed to indicate that due to a quirk of ages that none of the close to blood line relatives were involved.

But then I started to look a little further afield, up the tree for people who had married in the the family and sideways from the generations who were around at the time, looking for cousins or people from within that the family would have known I found there are names of distant relatives whose names are written upon those monuments that were erected following that conflict to mark the five and half million who had died on the Allies side. Many within my family's history had gone to serve, some had even returned from overseas as the family had emigrated to the USA or Canada and came to serve.

This series will act as a act of remembrance to those close to my family at the time who died in the service of their nation. Little did Laurence Binyon know when he wrote the words that follow (the full version) in the early months of the conflict that the way that we will remember them 100 years on in not necessarily by leafing through old, dusty, newspaper archives but through a medium that they wouldn't even have dreamed off. Radio wasn't even a mass media until after the War. Television some further years off and as for using a screen to access information from around the world in a matter of seconds, well that would have been unthinkable.

On the days that those I have discovered fell I shall writing a little bit about them and the battle in which they gave the ultimate sacrifice and the regiment or service they fought with. I shall remember them.

Ode to Remembrance

With proud thanksgiving, a mother for her children,
England mourns for her dead across the sea.
Flesh of her flesh they were, spirit of her spirit,
Fallen in the cause of the free.
Solemn the drums thrill; Death august and royal
Sings sorrow up into immortal spheres,
There is music in the midst of desolation
And a glory that shines upon our tears.
They went with songs to the battle, they were young,
Straight of limb, true of eye, steady and aglow.
They were staunch to the end against odds uncounted;
They fell with their faces to the foe.
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.
They mingle not with their laughing comrades again;
They sit no more at familiar tables of home;
They have no lot in our labour of the day-time;
They sleep beyond England’s foam.
But where our desires are and our hopes profound,
Felt as a well-spring that is hidden from sight,
To the innermost heart of their own land they are known
As the stars are known to the Night;
As the stars that shall be bright when we are dust,
Moving in marches upon the heavenly plain;
As the stars that are starry in the time of our darkness,
To the end, to the end, they remain.
Laurence Binyon September 1914

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