I am rather sorry to be missing the commemorations to mark the centenary of the end of the First a World War. The poppies at the Tower of London four years ago were immensely moving. I have one of them, and helped to remove them from the vote after the 11th November 2014. The spray of poppies that attracted so much attention then is at the front of the IWM in London. There are many photos online. The Tower has been filling the moat with candles. Thanks to Celia, I have this photograph.. I should have loved to have seen the sand pictures Danny Boyle and a team of artists are creating on beaches around the UK. I saw him interviewed about the project a while ago, and it sounded extremely moving.
The carnage of the First World continues to shock and appal a century later. We humans think we are so clever, but we still reach for weapons to solve disputes. It demonstrably doesn’t work, as anyone still alive in Yemen would be able to tell you, but we continue to arm ourselves, threaten, posture and kill, usually laying waste as part of the package. So each year I wear my poppy in a small act of remembrance for all those who have died as part of this human folly. Many died bravely, many were frightened, many regretted joining up if they did so before conscription was introduced. Poppies became our symbol of Remembrance after the First World War. We wear them now to remember all those who died in conflicts our country has been involved in from 1914 onwards. And not just our country. Here in New Zealand there have been commemorations too, reminders of the huge numbers of young men who have perished. Obviously this year, the focus is on 1914-1918.
Outside the museum in Auckland the white crosses are a poignant reminder.
Here in Wellington they are marking the centenary in other ways. Walk through the cemetery by the Botanic Gardens and you’ll find new white crosses and biographies beside graves and memorials from a century ago.
As a reminder that the First World War did not succeed in its ambition to be the war to end all wars, the Botanic Gardens has a peace garden where a flame burns in a lantern; a flame from Hiroshima. There is a block of stone from Nagasaki too.
I believe in the rite of remembering and honouring the dead, and I also believe the best way to honour them and the lives they lost, is to use ways to solve our differences that do not include mass murder, destruction, and massacre of innocents. To understand war is not simply a matter of winning and losing. It has repercussions across societies and across time, and creates scars that are slow to heal if they ever heal at all.
Lest we forget.
I have just read this very arresting and thought provoking piece from the Guardian.