Thursday, 10 November 2011


This year Armistice Day has the unique alignment of the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of the 11th year.

In today's crazy world is it often the simplest things that are the most important and poignant.
So at 11am I'll be at the Cenotaph at Whitehall in London to pay tribute to all who have fallen.
It will never cease to astound me how this part of central London can fall absolutely silent for those two minutes.

One of my collages commemorating Ypres, featuring my own photos and an old postcard I have of the Cloth Hall.

This year it will resonate even more as we now know of a family member who was killed in the First World War. My sister Anita has been researching the family history and discovered a Great Uncle who was killed on the Somme in 1918. As was so often the case, it is of great sadness that not only was he aged only 18 but that he has no known grave.
He is commemorated on a panel at Pozières Cemetery, a place I actually visited some years ago.
I'll be placing a poppy at the Cenotaph for Charles Clark in remembrance.

To finish I would like to give the last word to the best War poet of all, Siegfried Sassoon. His poems still have an immediacy and relevance today. Especially when you read the news and realise the leaders have learnt nothing from history.

Siegfried Sassoon in May 1915. © George Charles Beresford.

Great Men
The great ones of the earth
Approve, with smiles and bland salutes, the rage
And monstrous tyranny they have brought to birth.
The great ones of the earth
Are much concerned about the wars they wage,
And quite aware of what those wars are worth.

You Marshals, gilt and red,
You Ministers and Princes, and Great Men,
Why can't you keep your mouthings for the dead?
Go round the simple cemeteries; and then
Talk of our noble sacrifice and losses
To the wooden crosses.

© Siegfried Sassoon, 17 August 1918

And to all those who fell on the Somme...
Bapaume is the name of a village that the Generals thought would be captured on the 1st day of the Battle of the Somme in 1916. Eight months later it was reached, just after this poem was written.

The House is crammed: tier beyond tier they grin
And cackle at the Show, while prancing ranks
Of harlots shrill the chorus, drunk with din;
'We're sure the Kaiser loves our dear old Tanks!'

I'd like to see a Tank come down the stalls, 
Lurching to ragtime tunes, or 'Home, sweet Home',
And there'd be no mores jokes in Music-halls
To mock the riddled corpses round Bapaume.

© Siegfried Sassoon, 4 February 1917

Anyone wanting to read more of Sassoon, should check out poems such as Counter-Attack, Suicide in the Trenches and Aftermath. They really bring home the full horror of the First World War.

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