When I was young I was encouraged to learn and remember the sacrifices of war, through the iconic poem, In Flander's Field by Canadian John McCrae who served as a surgeon in the First World War. He was a remarkable person both as a soldier and a doctor. This poem which was required to submit to memory by students of my generation. McCrae died in the Great War trying to save the lives of fellow soldiers of all countries, allies and enemies alike.
He is buried in Europe. His poem was written after he had a close friend die in the second battle of Ypres in Belgium.
It was in the imfamous horrifying battles of Ypres, Passchendaele and the Somme, that the soldiers of the Canadian Expeditionary Forces, fought and died and forged a reputation for themselves and Canada for getting the job done. In particular, The Battle of Vimy Ridge is seen as a major step on Canada eventually becoming a well respected sovereign Nation in much the same way as the Battle of Gallipoli forged a national consciousness for Australia and New Zealand. These battles, some of which were defeats, had significance well beyond a battle in a war. The sacrifices by citizen soldier help forge a Nation., our Nation, Canada.
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.
— Lt.-Col. John McCrae (1872 - 1918)
It was so long ago that the World suffered the Great War, the war to end all wars. While we have for generations promised not to forget, the world has gone to war time and time again, including WWII. Why can we not heed the veterans admonition , "Never Again". We have failed them and must once again redouble our efforts to make war no longer an option in settling political disputes.
The Great War was during such a different life and times. The images of it are not fresh in our minds. They are startling as to how different it was. I have spent a lot of time looking at pictures, photographs and paintings. They are quite revealing. There are many sites you can access to view them. Canada's military archives are a source of so much interesting information. There are others. I encourage you to search them out and refresh you memories. With the veterans of the first war virtually all gone, there is no one left with direct memories of those times past. We need to study so we will remember still.
I post the picture below of downtown Toronto on Armistice Day 1918. What a wonderful day it must have been. The sacrifice was great and the surviving soldiers, many of whom were just farm boys when the left, were coming home much changed by the worst war ever for the common soldier. It was a great adventure for some and a great horror for all.
Toronto, Armistice Day November 11, 1918
We need to do better. We can do better. War is never the answer. It is hard to envison another war in Europe not because of military strength but diplomatic efforts to create a community of Nations committed to prospering together through their interdependence. Such mature efforts are the way Peace will be realized and major wars will be no more.
The World has lost so much human capital in lives cut short in war. WE REMEMBER!