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Armistice Day, 11th November: Lest We Forget; Remember the Fallen; Learn the Lessons; Education and Communication

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Ann is keen to use history as a basis for writing, to remind us that war & conflict can (usually) be replaced by discussion & understanding.

Armistice Day

Every year, in Britain, at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month, we lay wreaths of poppies, observe one minute’s silence and pray for those lost and mourned. The Queen and members of our Government lay wreaths at the Cenotaph Memorial in London. On many war memorials and plaques we see the words,

‘Lest we forget’

Poem by John McCrae (May 1915)

'In Flanders' Fields'

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.

Poppies were originally worn to commemorate those who died in the First World War. These days they are worn every November, around Armistice Day, to remember the fallen of every conflict since.

Throughout History

At school, we learn about the Crusades, the 100 Years War, the Wars of the Roses.

‘Lest we forget’

We learn about the First World War - the Great War that was supposed to be the war to end all wars. Would that were true!

We learn about what followed; the Second World War, the persecution of the Jews, more horror, more fear and evil.

‘Lest we forget’

History offers far too many examples of senseless wars for territory lost and gained. We’ve all seen footage of Hiroshima, Vietnam, Northern Ireland, Iraq, Afghanistan.

‘Lest we forget’

Now we have Syria, Iraq again, the IS. We have territorial arguments between Ukrainians and Russians. Those are just the tip of the iceberg.

‘Lest we forget’

War Memorials

I’ve visited Thiepval.

I’ve visited the beaches of the Normandy Landings.

You are amongst the fighting, you are there on the beaches, you realise the scale of these events, the scale of the cost to human lives, the enormity of the horror, the brutality, the waste.


Thiepval is a village in France. Built there is an imposing Anglo-French memorial to the more than 72,000 fallen of the Battle of the Somme, in Picardy in northern France, during the First World War, 1914-1918. It was designed by the British architect Sir Edwin Lutyens.

Picture this, feel this: The fields are open, the clouds cry onto the wind-swept sodden fields, mothers’ young sons fighting with other mothers’ young sons, far from home, wanting to be brave, shivering with cold, shivering with fear. They’re fighting for their country. No, they’re fighting for their lives. Noise, confusion, screams, fear, all around them, they cannot hide, they cannot get away.

The trenches are mud-pits, the soil drags their boots, they run in slow motion, over the top to throw grenades, to bayonette a few of the enemy, then back to safety if they’re lucky. The stench of mud, sweat, blood and shrapnel. Soldiers shoulder to shoulder with life and death, instant friends shoved together in a ditch, protect each other or die.

They think of home, of England’s green and pleasant land, here in the brown field in France. They think of a sweetheart, a soft kiss, a warm embrace, as the shrapnel kisses them goodbye.

They hope, they fight, they despair, they die, they are buried where they fall, never to be seen again. Missing believed dead. Forever missing from the ones they loved and who loved them. Their mangled bodies lie still, their eyes staring up at the sky in disbelief, their spirits at least free now, maybe at peace.


Chris Hartford from London, UK (Flickr) [CC-BY-2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Chris Hartford from London, UK (Flickr) [CC-BY-2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The Memorial Site

On that same terrain, in a green and fertile field, in a peaceful place where they can rest, now lie rows upon symmetrical rows of white headstones (the British) on which are written ‘A Soldier of the Great War/Known to God’; rows and rows of grey stone crosses (the French) each bearing ‘Inconnu’ (unknown). The memorial itself has names written on each side of its massive pillars, names of those who were denied a burial; they have never been found. As happens occasionally, if a body should be found and identified, the name is erased from the pillar and the body is given a full burial with honours.

On the top of the top-most arch is written,

‘Aux armées Francaise et Britannique, l’Empire Britannique reconnaissant’ (To the French and British Armies, from the grateful British Empire).

A ‘Cross of Sacrifice’ bears the following inscription:

‘That the world may remember the common sacrifice of two and a half million dead, here have been laid side by side Soldiers of France and of the British Empire in eternal comradeship.’

We do remember them. You will never forget if you visit this place.

They are Still Here

Solemn air hangs heavy about your shoulders. You wonder at the silence -then realise there is no bird song. The dark-bricked dominating edifice stands grim, full of sadness, past souls in present spirits, shouting of wastefulness. It stares down at us, defying us to ignore it. It is here for a reason; it has a message.

The visitors’ book has many entries, several of which, as mine, say simply, ‘Why?’

I felt the oppression, the courage, the fear, the anguish, from those long gone, those who never saw their loved ones or their homes again. The despair of those who never again hugged, kissed, smiled, laughed, talked, sang; never again cried, ached, bled, fell, looked at the sky; never again breathed.

Talk is futile when you walk about the pillars, along the grass between the headstones. You walk round and round the pillars and the names go on and on, a vicious circle.

The world is suspended. There are heavy hearts and fresh tears. Tears for them, tears for our own, for we all have some ancestor commemorated here. I have more than one second generation cousin reported as missing; my mother talked about Laurence often. He was 19.

‘Lest we forget’. We remember them all.

The Normandy Landings

Hundreds of boats, some commandeered, ferrying troops, vehicles and machines, delivered their cargo on a stretch of coastline near Caen, Northern France; the beaches of Gold & Sword (British), Utah & Omaha (American), Juno (Canadian), where slaughter on a horrendous scale took place.

These beaches were surveyed by German fortifications looking out across the English Channel (‘La Manche’ in French); beaches where sand was stained red, where many boats arrived and never left.

My grandfather was a young participant and I have his written account. He was in one of the naval boats transporting the troops to the beaches. He was one of the lucky survivors, thankfully, and his tale was told by way of a lecture.

'Lest we forget'

They fought on the Beaches

They fought on the Beaches

How Many Came Back?

How Many Came Back?

Sea & Beach swarmed with Soldiers

Sea & Beach swarmed with Soldiers

German Fortifications above the Beach

German Fortifications above the Beach

They Live in our Memories

No one wants to forget about the lives lost, no one wants to forget about the loved ones who weren’t able to have children or lead productive, happy lives, following their dreams. I don’t believe any individual does forget about all those things which influence our own present and future.

Will Governments Learn from Mistakes?

The trouble is governments seem to forget. They forget that

  • war is futile,
  • killing is wrong,
  • talks are vital,
  • mediation is the key,
  • compassion & compromise are needed,
  • education is necessary,
  • understanding is paramount.

The one picture that says it all for me is when the British and German troops stopped fighting on Christmas Day, came out of the trenches, met and talked to each other, some even exchanging gifts, face to face as ordinary human beings, people with ordinary lives. The next day they went back to killing each other. I cannot understand that. I know it wasn’t their decision, it was their superiors directing them, but I cannot understand why. In the name of God, why?

Until those in power realise that we have to go through a mediation process, that there has to be give and take, not just for a while but all the time, then we are doomed.

Until we shout loudly enough, ‘War is not the answer!’, it will continue; the greed, the need for power, the religious fanaticism, will win. Understanding, talking, educating takes second place unless we keep shouting, ‘War is not the answer!’ The arrogance of ‘knowing best’, of interfering or dictating outcomes will continue, resentment will fester and grow to be a cancer on the world. A little more each time, life itself will be whittled away. Humanity will lose. We will all lose and then it will be too late to ask why, too late to say ‘Lest we forget’.

Lest We Forget - a Poem

The blade in the stomach,

the bullet in the eye,

the body-shredding bomb,

the nuclear burn

with seeping cancer,

an aftermath for generations.


Aching hearts,

mothers bereft,

children watching parents die,

Coffins carried

home to rest,

or empty graves that gape.


Politicians quick to act,

bombing this and bombing that,

re-enacting past mistakes,

never putting on the brakes

instead to halt these senseless wars,

always fighting - for what cause?


Listen to the children asking

what is happening to their lives.

Listen to the soldiers wondering

why they fight, so too their wives

waiting for that feared arrival,

a letter cutting off survival.


Talk and talk until you win.

Find solutions from that thin

shred of hope within us all,

then our nations can stand tall.

Then we earn the right to say

we have paved the glorious way

to a world without destruction,

where we all say with conviction,

‘There will be no more.’

AFC 2014

Poppies, like those in Flanders Fields

Poppies to remind us of the futility of war.

Poppies to remind us of the futility of war.



Look at the past, reach for the future, remember our mistakes.

We have all these reminders, all these memories. Why?

Lest We Forget.

What do You Think?

Ceramic Poppies at the Tower of London

This year of 2014, as a commemmoration of 100 years since the start of WW1, an artist has created an installation of red ceramic poppies in the moat of the Tower of London. One poppy at a time has been added and they now fill the moat, the last having been added today by a young Army Cadet.

The idea is that each poppy represents a soldier who died for his country. Some of the poppies spill from the top of the outer wall into the moat, like blood spilling into the sea. The 'Weeping Willow' and 'Wave' segments will be the final sections to be removed; they stay until the end of November 2014.

The artist's idea was that it should last until 11th November 2014 and then be dismantled to go on tour. However, it has been granted an extra two weeks at The Tower before beginning its journey around the country. Dismantling begins on 12th November.

The installation is called 'Blood-Swept Lands and Seas of Red'.

You can find out more about this amazing piece of art at:

Update: The installation has now gone from The Tower, parts of it on tour around the country. It was spectacular and I finally got to see it when just half of it was left. See my hub:

© 2014 Ann Carr


Ann Carr (author) from SW England on October 31, 2014:

tirelesstraveler: Yes they conveniently forget and it's up to us to make them remember. Thank you very much for your visit and insightful comment. Thanks too for your support; much appreciated.


Judy Specht from California on October 31, 2014:

We the people do not forget. We pay the price of the government machine that feels nothing and remembers nothing.

Governments keep doing the same things that cause war.

I solute you for this grave and encouraging tribute, a reminder lest we forget.

Ann Carr (author) from SW England on October 30, 2014:

lrc7815: Thank you so much for your wonderful comment and compliment. You're very kind. I too think it's important that we remember those who died defending their country. Those who've fought and been injured deserve better care too; we do help them here but many slip through the net nonetheless.

Thank you for the votes and I'm glad you liked the poem. Moving someone to tears is humbling but what I was in fact trying to achieve. I think poetry comes more easily if you are emotional and passionate about your subject.

Good to see you here and thanks again.


Linda Crist from Central Virginia on October 30, 2014:

Ann, I was drawn to this hub as my first read of your work. Although I do not agree with many of the actions of government (my own or others) today, I am and will always be a patriot. As such, those who have made so many sacrifices for the rest of us are near and dear to my heart always. I wrote an article last year about Veteran's Day and was amazed at how many people had never heard of Armistice Day. Did they not listen in history class or was it not taught? For me it was a day just as important as the major holidays we recognize. Your hub is so moving and informative. Clearly you have the same respect and reverence for those who paid the ultimate price as I do. Your poem moved me to tears. I wish I was a poet but I do not have the skill. How I have missed your work here on HP is a mystery to me but I will be a loyal follower from this point forward. Voted up, awesome, beautiful and sharing it too.

Ann Carr (author) from SW England on September 11, 2014:

Hi Mel; thank you so much for your kind comment. You've summed up the situation exactly. We're facing a difficult future. It's so difficult to find politicians with integrity. All we can do is vet them carefully before we vote them in!

I appreciate your visit and wish you a great Thursday and a wonderful weekend.


Mel Carriere from Snowbound and down in Northern Colorado on September 10, 2014:

We always forget, don't we? The problem is that we keep electing sociopaths and megalomaniacs into positions of power. People need to wake up and realize that war only benefits a handful of avaricious men who have absolutely no compunction about disposing of young lives as long as it enriches them. Someday I know they will sit before some throne and there will be an accounting but we can't wait for that. We have to make them accountable now! Great hub, great poem, and beautiful words!

Ann Carr (author) from SW England on September 08, 2014:

Thank you, Jamie, for the compliment. I'm glad you liked the poem. Your visit, as always, much appreciated.


Jamie Lee Hamann from Reno NV on September 08, 2014:

Beautiful poetry Ann and a wonderful hub. I love it! Jamie

Ann Carr (author) from SW England on September 08, 2014:

I didn't notice! Thanks again, RQ.


Romeos Quill from Lincolnshire, England on September 08, 2014:

Typo * Isaiah *.

No, really Ann; your verse is realistically excellent.

Take care;


Ann Carr (author) from SW England on September 08, 2014:

R.Q.: Thank you so much for your great comments. I'm flattered you're reminded of such great poets! I wish! Thank you for coming back to read.

Yes, I remember that film too. Your quotation from Isaiah is so apt; wish I'd thought of that. Great to see you here. Thanks for the visit.


Romeos Quill from Lincolnshire, England on September 08, 2014:

Such a sad occasion Ann, but your magnificent article about this important part of history was really well constructed and could tell that you have obviously spent much time comprising this Hub.

Your poetry was really good; reminded me of Siegfried Sassoon and Wilfred Owen's genre of poetry from that era.

I read this the other day but couldn't leave a proper comment but it's good to come back and absorb more from your hard work the second time around.

Do you remember that Television movie (1979) 'All Quiet on the Western Front', based on the novel of the same name, starring Ernest Borgnine, Donald Pleasance, Richard Thomas and other notable actors? That film said it all about WWI to me.

Man surely needs to change from within before there is ever hope of a lasting and non-disabling peace upon this earth.

The only certainty in history it seems, regarding empires, is that they always collapse; why expend precious lives for that which will not last? I always understood the military's existence as predominantly a force for a nation's defence.

I totally agree with you; it all seems so futile.

Shall certainly look forward to the latter days of this prophecy:-

" And he shall judge among the nations, and shall rebuke many people: and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruninghooks: nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more." ( The prophet Isiaiah 2:4 ), quoted from the King James Bible.

Fantastic Hub here dear Ann and all the clicks 'cept funny.

Enjoy a peaceful evening;


Ann Carr (author) from SW England on September 08, 2014:

Thank you, MsDora, for your kind words. I love writing poetry and like to use it to show a personal perspective on the subject. I'm glad you found it powerful. Your visit is greatly appreciated.


Dora Weithers from The Caribbean on September 07, 2014:

I hope your poem gets the attention it deserves, because the message is powerful and relevant. In the Caribbean, we also observed Poppy Day, but with very little understanding. Thanks for sharing your reflections especially under Thiepval.

Ann Carr (author) from SW England on September 07, 2014:

Thank you, techygran. I think you might have your hubbers confused, though! I'm annart; the previous comment was from FlourishAnyway! No matter. I'm glad you came to read my hub and thank you for leaving such a great comment, for the votes and for sharing.

I'm off to look at your profile now.


Cynthia Zirkwitz from Vancouver Island, Canada on September 07, 2014:

Dear FlourishAnyway, I thought I had heard all the Armistice Day rhetoric, but you have brought something fresh to the remembrance... I think perhaps it is the poem, foremost. The "Why?" chorus really drives the issue home for me. Thank you for this masterful post. Voted up and sharing!

Ann Carr (author) from SW England on September 07, 2014:

FlourishAnyway: Thank you for your kind comments; I'm flattered that you like this. I'm not very optimistic about countries' abilities to get on better but there's always a chance as long as we keep trying. Great to see you here.


FlourishAnyway from USA on September 07, 2014:

Artfully written. A fine piece of work you have here both in words, meaning and photographs. Such a timely piece as well in this tumultuous world. War is brutal and in the end we must all depend on one another. Voted way up +++ and sharing for others.

Ann Carr (author) from SW England on September 07, 2014:

Thank you, Colleen, for your kind words and for sharing this hub; much appreciated. Men to the slaughter indeed. I wish it could stop but, sadly, I can't see it happening for a long time.


Colleen Swan from County Durham on September 07, 2014:

A lovely written and interesting article, yet a sad subject. The futility of war. I recently listened to a veterans account of the Normandy landings. Men to the slaughter. I shared your hub on Google plus community: Famous monuments in the world

Ann Carr (author) from SW England on September 06, 2014:

Thank you so much, teaches, for your kind words. I'm glad you found it inspiring; that's good for me! Thanks for reading and for your input.


Ann Carr (author) from SW England on September 06, 2014:

DDE: Thank you. I'm glad you enjoyed it. Ann

Dianna Mendez on September 06, 2014:

What a powerful message on this time in history. Your poem is inspiring! We cannot thank these men enough for what they did for our country. Your post is excellent!

Devika Primić from Dubrovnik, Croatia on September 05, 2014:

A great thought from you and a very interesting hub. You certainly did a fine work of art here.

Ann Carr (author) from SW England on September 05, 2014:

always exploring: Thank you so much for your comment. I'm glad you liked this. The waste of young lives is so futile; why do these leaders think that any good can come of it? Hundreds of years of carnage doesn't seem to make any difference. Power, religion, greed, stupidity or madness? It's time to stop.

Thanks again for stopping by and leaving your input.


Ruby Jean Richert from Southern Illinois on September 05, 2014:

Ann, this is so beautiful. Your writing skill brings out the horrors of war so brilliantly. ' Least we forget ' Do you think we will ever learn that war never solves a problem? So many young die each time we fight a war and yet, we do forget and another war is waged. I loved your poetry. Thank you so much for sharing...

Ann Carr (author) from SW England on September 05, 2014:

Thank you, Joyce. I'm glad you appreciated this. I wanted to repeat it so that it remained in people's minds - I hope!

Thanks for stopping by.

Joyce T. Mann from Bucks County, Pennsylvania USA on September 05, 2014:

Thank you for this heartfelt remembrance to those who have died in WWI. I love the repetition of "lest we forget."

Ann Carr (author) from SW England on September 05, 2014:

Pawpawwrites: Thank you very much for reading and for your input, also for the follow. It's so important to remember and, even more important, to learn the lessons.


Ann Carr (author) from SW England on September 05, 2014:

DealForALiving: Thank you for your lovely comment. I'm glad you liked this and thanks too for sharing. Much appreciated. Ann

Jim from Kansas on September 05, 2014:

There is nothing more sad, than a fallen soldier, who has been forgotten. Thanks for remembering.

Nick Deal from Earth on September 05, 2014:

What a touching tribute to the sacrifices and history that preceded us. I feel so fortunate to have read this hub and will share with others.

Ann Carr (author) from SW England on September 05, 2014:

Wow, Graham, thank you so much for your wonderful comments and the vote. I'm glad you liked reading and that you enjoyed the poem. When we visit a place we tend to take loads of photos and they later bring back the facts as well as the feelings; all that helps with the information!

Good to see you; I appreciate you dropping by.


Graham Lee from Lancashire. England. on September 05, 2014:

Hi Ann. I think this might be the best hub I have read on these pages. Researched so well, presented so well and poetry from your heart. Well done indeed.

voted up and all.


Ann Carr (author) from SW England on September 05, 2014:

Thank you, Frank! You are all so kind here! I'm so glad you liked this. I'm really pleased you thought the poem added balance; it's why I include them in other pieces sometimes because I can express my thoughts a little differently, it's easier to add emotion.

Thanks also for the votes. Have a great weekend, Frank.


Ann Carr (author) from SW England on September 05, 2014:

Well, Faith, I am overwhelmed with your and all these other comments from the writers I respect the most. Thank you so much for your kindness and your votes. Glad you liked the poem. As bill often says, I think we write our best when it comes straight from the heart, with passion.

I hope you have a wonderful weekend, Faith. My best to you, dear friend.


Ann Carr (author) from SW England on September 05, 2014:

Will: thank you for your kind words. 'Brilliant' and 'superb' are words I like a lot! Yes, the young lives are always cut off needlessly and when one looks at the child soldiers now, well......

I feel privileged to be considered a cousin, Will. Thanks again and have a great weekend.


Ann Carr (author) from SW England on September 05, 2014:

sallybea: Thank you very much for your lovely comment. I don't know if man will ever learn but we've had enough lessons. Trouble is, they're not very well learnt.

These places do stick in the mind, don't they?

I hope you have a great weekend and thanks again.


Frank Atanacio from Shelton on September 05, 2014:

Ann I have to agree with Billy, this was written so well and the poem just added balance, lest we forget... yeah voted amazingly well written

Faith Reaper from southern USA on September 04, 2014:

Well, dear Ann,

I cannot seem to share to twitter and pinterest at the moment. I shall return!

I could not edit my comment either ... hmmm


Faith Reaper from southern USA on September 04, 2014:

Yes, "lest we forget' indeed! Profound and thought-provoking writing here, dear Ann.

I agree with every word that billybuc has stated here. You are brilliant.

I love your poem as much, if not more than McCrae's, and I really love his!

Voted up ++++ tweeting, pinning, G+ and sharing

Blessings always

WillStarr from Phoenix, Arizona on September 04, 2014:

This is superb, Ann, because war is always so devastating to those who had nothing to do with it...our young people, just beginning to live..

You are a brilliant writer, my British cousin.

Sally Gulbrandsen from Norfolk on September 04, 2014:


An exceptional piece of writing. I have visited a few of the sites mentioned in this hub and the memory of the graves in France is a visual which one never forgets you once you have seen them. What a terrible waste of life. Will man never learn!

Ann Carr (author) from SW England on September 04, 2014:

Well, thank you, Rachael, for your wonderful comment. I'm flattered you found it so. Thanks too for the votes and sharing and I don't mind a bit about Facebook - I won't join it either!

That's the first time anyone's said they could almost hear music playing! Wow! I'm glad you liked the poem too.


Rachael O'Halloran from United States on September 04, 2014:

I could almost hear music playing in the background as I read this article. You poem was beautiful and the writing on this piece was wonderful. Voted up, shared on across the board, except Facebook (which I won't join). lol

Ann Carr (author) from SW England on September 04, 2014:

Thank you manatita. I think forgetting love and faith and compassion is part of the message of 'Lest we forget'.

I greatly appreciate your kind words and I'm glad you enjoyed the hub and the poem. Good to see you here.


manatita44 from london on September 04, 2014:

An inspired poem, the first one. Loved it.

Your point is well taken, Ann, but we can also look at it another way. 'Lest we forget.' We have forgotton, Ann. We have forgotton the lofty message brought by Christ, Buddha, Krishna, Ramakrishna and many more. The language of inner peace, the Path which passeth human understanding is a deep one and difficult to thread. Hence we get many of the things you highlighted so well in your Hub. The Way of Love is always open.

May the inner Glory illuminate our minds, heal our emotions and bless our hearts. Light and happiness to you.

Ann Carr (author) from SW England on September 04, 2014:

Homeplace Series: Thank you for reading and commenting. I'm glad it made an impact on you. Your visit and input is much appreciated.


Ann Carr (author) from SW England on September 04, 2014:

Wow! Thank you so much. I worked long and hard on this one and I'm delighted with your response. I feel so passionate about this. It's been a few years since I visited these places and it's still raw in my mind.

I love the words 'powerful' and 'exceptional'; I'm smiling from ear to ear (and from there to there!). That's why I write; to get feedback that makes me feel as though I've done a good job and tells me I've conveyed what I intended. You've made my day!

Yes, the horror goes on and on and I can't for the life of me understand when, mostly, the common people in every country just want peace.

3 brilliants? Wow!

Hope you have a great evening, bill.


William Leverne Smith from Hollister, MO on September 04, 2014:

I'll simply echo the support of the hub by billybuc, above. Agree 100%. We must not ignore the history we have available to us. Thanks for the great reminders, however they make us feel.

Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on September 04, 2014:

This is the best thing you have written, Ann. Simply powerful writing here. The continual use of the phrase "lest we forget" is exceptional. The images of those in skin crawled. My father landed at Anzio and he could never talk about the horror and terror. Today we have no concept of what these men went through, but we had better learn the lessons they gave us. War is hell. There is nothing glorified about it. It is blown limbs and anguished cries of pain. It is shopkeepers and librarians losing their lives because political leaders cannot find a rational and sane solution. You have done yeoman's work with this, Ann, and it is a pure pleasure to read it.

Brilliant! Brilliant! Brilliant!


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