Archive for Remembrance Day

Unsolved, by John McCrae

Posted in History, Poetry with tags , , , , on November 11, 2021 by telescoper

The poet John McCrae served with distinction in the Canadian Field Artillery during the First World War, rising to the rank of Lieutenant Colonel. He died in 1918, of pneumonia, shortly before the end of the conflict.
McCrae is best known for writing the poem In Flanders Fields, the imagery of which led to the adoption of the poppy as the emblem of Remembrance Day (11th November i.e. today). He wrote many other interesting poems, however, so I thought I’d share one here to celebrate his life.

Amid my books I lived the hurrying years,
Disdaining kinship with my fellow man;
Alike to me were human smiles and tears,
I cared not whither Earth’s great life-stream ran,
Till as I knelt before my mouldered shrine,
God made me look into a woman’s eyes;
And I, who thought all earthly wisdom mine,
Knew in a moment that the eternal skies
Were measured but in inches, to the quest
That lay before me in that mystic gaze.
“Surely I have been errant; it is best
That I should tread, with men their human ways.”
God took the teacher, ere the task was learned,
And to my lonely books again I turned.

by John McCrae (1872-1918)


The Last Post – Cardiff University Remembers

Posted in History with tags , , , , on November 11, 2016 by telescoper


If you think a lot has happened since July 1st this year, pause a moment to reflect on the fact that 100 years ago today the Battle of the Somme was still raging.


Lest we forget.

Lest we forget

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , on November 11, 2012 by telescoper

It’s Remembrance Sunday which happens this year to fall exactly on Remembrance Day, so I scheduled this in advance to be posted on the eleventh hour as seems appropriate. I’ll be observing two minutes’ silence as this goes online, on my own as I prefer to do it on such occasions. I’ve written long posts about my feelings about Remembrance Day (see the tag Poppy for examples), so I won’t repeat myself here.

I will however take the liberty of posting this video about shell shock and other reactive disorders, as a reminder that the Poppy Appeal is not just about remembering the fallen, but also about helping the survivors who have been maimed or traumatised by war. It’s not an easy clip to watch, but then it’s not supposed to be. Click through to the other segments if you can stand it.

I’ll also add that many victims of shell shock were shot as cowards, including three seventeen year-old British soldiers who had lied about their age in order to enlist. Nowadays this is recognised as a form of post-traumatic stress disorder and although it can be treated, there is no complete cure.

Some people say that Remembrance Day glorifies war. I don’t see it that way at all. It’s there as a reminder of  the horrors of  past wars to urge us avoid armed conflict in the future. It’s a pity our politicians seem not to understand this.

Lest we forget.


Posted in Poetry with tags , , , on November 11, 2011 by telescoper

It’s the Eleventh Day of the Eleventh Month which means it’s Remembrance Day. I’ve posted about my thoughts about this time of year before (see, for example, here and here). Rather than say it all again, therefore, I decided to post a poem by the greatest poet of the First World War, Wilfred Owen. I might even go as far as to say that this is Wilfred Owen’s greatest poem. It’s certainly one of his most complex and ambivalent works, as it juxtaposes the necessary insensitivity of men who have to survive in conditions so appalling
that they might otherwise go mad, with the unawakened or even wilful insensibility of people who have never been confronted with the horror of what war is really like. Lest we forget.


Happy are men who yet before they are killed
Can let their veins run cold.
Whom no compassion fleers
Or makes their feet
Sore on the alleys cobbled with their brothers.
The front line withers,
But they are troops who fade, not flowers
For poets’ tearful fooling:
Men, gaps for filling
Losses who might have fought
Longer; but no one bothers.


And some cease feeling
Even themselves or for themselves.
Dullness best solves
The tease and doubt of shelling,
And Chance’s strange arithmetic
Comes simpler than the reckoning of their shilling.
They keep no check on Armies’ decimation.


Happy are these who lose imagination:
They have enough to carry with ammunition.
Their spirit drags no pack.
Their old wounds save with cold can not more ache.
Having seen all things red,
Their eyes are rid
Of the hurt of the colour of blood for ever.
And terror’s first constriction over,
Their hearts remain small drawn.
Their senses in some scorching cautery of battle
Now long since ironed,
Can laugh among the dying, unconcerned.


Happy the soldier home, with not a notion
How somewhere, every dawn, some men attack,
And many sighs are drained.
Happy the lad whose mind was never trained:
His days are worth forgetting more than not.
He sings along the march
Which we march taciturn, because of dusk,
The long, forlorn, relentless trend
From larger day to huger night.


We wise, who with a thought besmirch
Blood over all our soul,
How should we see our task
But through his blunt and lashless eyes?
Alive, he is not vital overmuch;
Dying, not mortal overmuch;
Nor sad, nor proud,
Nor curious at all.
He cannot tell
Old men’s placidity from his.


But cursed are dullards whom no cannon stuns,
That they should be as stones.
Wretched are they, and mean
With paucity that never was simplicity.
By choice they made themselves immune
To pity and whatever mourns in man
Before the last sea and the hapless stars;
Whatever mourns when many leave these shores;
Whatever shares
The eternal reciprocity of tears.