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.
In 1914, as war had broken out in Europe, Laurence Binyon penned his For the Fallen while sitting atop a cliff on the north Cornish coastline. It is the stanza above, the fourth in the completed work, that was his starting point and that has become familiar from its use at Remembrance/Veterans Day services around the world.
Just a few months after Binyon's homage to fallen soldiers, Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae composed his poem, In Flanders Fields on a Belgium battleground following the death of a close friend, Lieutenant Alexis Helmer, killed by a German artillery shell. It is said that McCrae was asked to conduct a burial service as there was no chaplain and that evening he began writing what has become the most famous war memorial poem.
We are the dead: Short days ago,
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved: and now we lie
In Flanders fields.
Each Nov. 11 we are called upon to honour the selfless men and women who fought for our democracy, who gave their lives so that we could enjoy the best of lives. Their sacrifices gifted us freedom and comfort. It is, therefore, not just an obvious, but a moral obligation to my mind, that our thoughts are given to them in return, that our silence is offered to memorialize them.
This knowledge pushed its way into my consciousness when I was quite small. Attendance at annual Remembrance Day services was as much a part of school life as the Christmas pageant. Somehow, whether a result of the solemnity of the occasion, or the parade of dignified grownups in uniform or the weary sadness of the bugle's lament, my classmates and I, if we didn't exactly fully understand, appreciated that this day marked something significant.
Regardless of what affected us, we responded appropriately. The occasion was celebrated with as much dignity as childhood allows. The images of the students' orderly march to the cenotaph, of a large group of veterans with heads bowed, of the crowd standing in silent stillness in recognition of sacrifice and valour, are easily recalled in mind. Youngsters, even before fully comprehending the importance, took it all in as veterans placed their poppies on a wreath and saluted, their memories clearly visible in their expressions. And I along with many of my peers was moved, despite, especially in the earliest grades, not fully knowing why.
There have been changes to Remembrance Day services from my childhood. Most notably, the number of veterans on hand with each passing year. Also, no longer is my attendance mandatory, nor do I lack any understanding of why we are there. There is no question for us that this commemorative day is to recognize those who fought and and those who gave their lives for our freedom. What this means and how important that is means as much now as it ever did.
Perhaps more these days.
The time for reflection will soon be upon us once again. As the final days of October fade away and we move forwards into November, enjoying with thankfulness the pleasures and freedoms of democracy, we offer this collection of photos to honour the fallen and acknowledge the sacrifices of so many brave men and women ... Lest We Forget.