Sunday, 29 May 2016

Commemorative Poppies

Close-up of a carpet of red, handmade crocheted poppies

5,000 poppies paid a tribute of respect and remembrance at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show this week. This was a recreation of the Anzac Day tribute in Melbourne, Australia in 2015. Homemade crocheted poppies captured worldwide attention with an estimated 50,000 contributors.

World War I commemorations take place today at Verdun in Lorraine, France. The French President, François Hollande has invited the German Chancellor, Angela Merkel to join him at the French national event for the Centenary of the Battle of Verdun.

The Somme
The UK will commemorate the Centenary of the Battle of the Somme on 1st July. The ceremony will be held at the Thiepval Memorial in Northern France to remember British, Commonwealth and French war dead.

Scottish vigil
Scotland will stage a commemorative ceremony on 30th June in the Scottish National War Memorial at Edinburgh Castle. Regimental associations will stage a vigil throughout the night until 7.30am on 1st July. Fifty-one Scottish battalions took part in the Battle of the Somme that lasted for 4 months, sustaining heavy losses.

Other vigils
Similar overnight vigils will take place in Westminster Abbey, in County Down in Northern Ireland and at the Welsh National War Memorial in Cardiff.

France and Germany together
I remember spending my year abroad in Lorraine. The wounds between France and Germany still seemed raw in the area then. It is therefore remarkable and commendable that France and Germany can join together in this way today.

Perhaps it will send hope that other conflicts in the world can be resolved? Deep wounds can heal. Although those nations in conflict today should note how many generations it takes for former enemies to work together.

We should remember Santayana’s words:

“Those who cannot remember the past
 are condemned to repeat it.”

These two long World War One battles are a testament to how senseless war is. So many young men lost their lives with little ground gained. So many families were affected by the losses in Europe and worldwide.

Poppies of Remembrance
The World War One battlefields gave us our symbol of remembrance. The humble poppy bloomed on the worst battlefields in Flanders. Today its brilliant red colour recalls the blood spilled in all wars and conflicts.

The poppy remains significant. The huge crowds that viewed the Tower of London’s ceramic poppies last year demonstrated this.

Some 50,000 crocheted poppies were displayed in front of the Royal Hospital in Chelsea this week. The display had special significance as this is the home of the Chelsea Pensioners, the UK's veteran soldiers.

The project began as a small personal tribute by two Australian women to their fathers. The Chelsea Flower Show leaflet describes:

“a worldwide outpouring of respect and remembrance 
to those who have served their countries in all wars, 
conflicts and peacekeeping operations.”

Carpet of crocheted poppies in front of Royal Chelsea Hospital

Families want to go on remembering.