Monday, 4 August 2014

Let us add to the peace and give thanks as we remember World War 1 #worldwar1 #lettherebepeacetoday

photo 1: Red Flowering Poppy Belgium 2014 (The poppy flower grows naturally in conditions when the soil is disturbed. The Poppy was one of the few flowers to grow during the war and John McCrae mentions them in his poem Flanders fields. It is the Royal British Legion symbol representing immeasurable sacrifice)
 photo 2:Anzac Memorial Hyde Park Sydney
 Photo 3:Polygon Wood, Ypres
 Photo 4:Christmas Truce field
 Photo 5:Wreath at Anzac Memorial Hyde Park Sydney 4th August 2014
Photo 6: Hyde Park Sydney

The young cadet lowers the Australian flag to half-mast as the bugle calls the Last Post from the stairs of the Anzac Memorial in Hyde Park Sydney. It is a moving moment as we pause in silence to remember this day 100 years ago when World War 1 began. Following Britain’s declaration of War on the 4th August 1914, over 416000 Australians enlisted, with approximately 60000 soldiers killed in this devastating War. Over 150000 soldiers were wounded, gassed or prisoners of War. The contribution women made is starting to be a little clearer too. The loss and effort was astounding for all countries.
I try to imagine what a different world Australians lived in 100 years ago, so very different from today and yet total peace is still out of reach for parts of our global community in 2014. 

Howard and I reflect on our time overseas, outside of Lille in France and then in Belgium last month. The attempt to retrace Howard's family link to this part of World War 1 was a real eye opener for me. Greg Celerse runs the Fromelles and Flanders Battlefield Tours and kindly assisted with our research. Howard's two uncles fought side by side and the brothers had survived the war together.Greg picked us up in Lille and we drove towards the battlefields of World War 1.

Greg firstly drove us to Polygon Wood across the Belgian boarder. There was a silence and yet a presence that remained there; devotion, love, loyalty and bravery in the stories Howard and Greg shared.  I know this sounds cliché but its true, the tall trees echoed a truth that was potent. History came to life for me that day and it caught me by surprise because this was Howard’s interest. Later in the day I looked at the endless number of white headstones in the Commonwealth cemetery’s and asked myself, ‘What on earth happened hear?’ Now it seems I am on a bit of a quest to find out.

Back in Sydney I find myself at the Memorial service after catching the train into the city. Emma needed a lift back to school after a weekend of polocrosse, so I was happy to do that but it was a shame that Howard couldn't join me at the memorial. 

The first dear old man I see is standing back from the crowd here in Sydney. He has medals across his jacket and I would dearly love to have a chat with him but he seems deep in thought.  What is his link to World War 1? He joins the people sitting at the foot of the stairs when the memorial begins. It is a quiet and simple presentation as the wreath laying begins. I am glad to be here because this War is a significant part of our history and we should know what happened.  Learning about World War 1 makes me grateful for friendship, family, the great Australian lifestyle we live and how good it is to be living in peace in Australia.

What sticks in my mind, of all the stories of war, are the few days around Christmas time during World War 1 when the white flag was waved and the men stopped fighting in certain battlefields during the Christmas truce. Both sides exchanged cigarettes, looked at each other’s photos and even played a game of soccor or two. It is my favourite War story and as our private tour in Belgium and France comes to an end, Greg has a surprise for us. He takes Howard and I along a tiny lane and stops at a little wooden cross. ‘This is where it happened’ Greg said, ‘Right here on the wheat field is where the fighting stopped for a while.’ I was astounded and stood in silence as the breeze moved gently across the tall crop on sunset. Peace was here.

Peace….let us be peace…in thought, action and intention..Let us be Peaceful….

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