11th hour of 11th day of the 11th month, 888246 British or Colonial fatalities, Armistice Day, Buddy Poppy, Flanders Fields, Germany, glass poppies, H.G. Wells, Israel, Last Post, Major John McCrae, poppies, Prime Minister David Cameron, Prime Minister Netanyahu, The Daily News (London), The War to End all Wars, Tower of London, World War I, Ypres
When I was a boy in an, admittedly, altogether different America, on this day and for days in advance, every man or boy wore a ‘Buddy Poppy’ in his lapel.
For the ladies, oftentimes instead of the paper variety, it was very nice broach shaped as a poppy that she dutifully pinned upon her blouse, dress or coat.
Everyone wore a poppy, both on one’s outer garment and also on one’s clothing.
Whither that America?
Another instance of America’s having forgotten her history, or is there another explanation, perhaps?
For days now, the World has seen the British Royal Family, Prime Minister Cameron and all his Cabinet, most all typical Britons, indeed, wearing a poppy. Ditto the Canadians, Australians, etc.
And the American President?
At least in the photos taken with Israel’s Prime Minister Netanyahu on Monday, 9th, this President was poppy-free. Odd? To me, or certain of my generation, decidedly, yes.
In any case, it was on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of 1917, all across Europe, that the cannons fell silent for the first time since 1914.
Armistice had become reality.
Despite the then-unparalleled butchery of battles fought, lost and won, The Allies had prevailed.
Since America did not even join the slaughter until 6 April 1917, it was perhaps reasonable that Americans did not believe that this might truly be “the war to end all wars”.
That phrase is attributed to the British futurist, H. G. Wells, who wrote in an article titled “The War That Will End War,” published in The Daily News (London) on 14 August 1914:
“This is already the vastest war in history. It is a war not of nations, but of mankind. It is a war to exorcise a world-madness and end an age… For this is now a war for peace. It aims straight at disarmament. It aims at a settlement that shall stop this sort of thing for ever. Every soldier who fights against Germany now is a crusader against war. This, the greatest of all wars, is not just another war—it is the last war!”
Despite Mr. Wells’ misplaced optimism, it is the words of a Canadian military doctor and artillery commander, Major John McCrae, an officer in His Majesty’s British Army, which have become the epitaph for all The Many who died defending freedom.
In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.
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.
Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.
[Her Majesty The Queen And The Duke Of Edinburgh visit the “Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red” Poppy installation at The Tower of London on Oct 16, 2014. 888,246 glass poppies were planted in the moat by volunteers with the last poppy being planted on November 11, 2014. Each poppy represents a British or Colonial fatality in the First World War. (Photo/IC)]