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My tribute on Remembrance Day

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Here is my tribute on this significant day - a poem I wrote that was published in an Australian poetry book. Remembrance Day (and ANZAC Day) are the only two days of the year that brings me to instant tears at 11am when the last post is played and a minute silence follows. Although I have not lost anyone to war, it hits my heart so hard that it physically takes my breath away and I am unable to control the emotion that bubbles up and spills over.

An ANZAC is a soldier in the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps


As I sit here staring
At the poppy in my hands
A symbol of atrocities
Held on a far off land

One minute of silence
For all the blood that shed
One small minute of tribute
So many words left unsaid

We could not take for one moment
What you’ve endured from the start
But we can help you carry the burden
In our memories and our hearts

And for those that rest in peace now
I say a prayer for you
May God hold you in his hands
Where your spirit can be renewed

And for those that are left behind
And we see some of you each day
We do our jobs throughout your home
And in gratitude I now pray

That those that come across your path
And those that cater for your needs
May their hearts be open to your history
And all of your past deeds

For you have served this country
So we may look forward to tomorrow
And our hearts are filled with blessings
Reaped from those times of sorrow

I pray for your happiness
And all that you require
I pray for compassionate carers
Every minute, every hour

And as my heart struggles to forgive
Those with power commanding
I hear our Lord’s words loudly
“they knew not what they were doing”.

Why a red poppy? (information sourced from the Australian Army website)

Canadian Colonel John McCrae first described the Red Poppy, the Flanders’ poppy, as the flower of remembrance.

Whilst serving in the First World War, one death in particular affected the then Major McCrae. A young friend and former student, Lieutenant Alexis Helmer of Ottawa, was killed on 2 May. He was buried in the cemetery outside McCrae's dressing station, and McCrae had performed the funeral ceremony in the absence of the chaplain.

McCrae vented his anguish by composing a poem. At the second battle of Ypres in 1915, when in charge of a small first-aid post, he wrote in pencil on a page from his despatch book, a poem that has come to be known as 'Flanders' Field' which described the poppies that marked the graves of soldiers killed fighting for their country.

What is the significance for Australians?

The Red Poppy has special significance for Australians.

Worn on Remembrance Day (11 November) each year, the red poppies were among the first to flower in the devastated battlefields of northern France and Belgium in the First World War. In soldiers’ folklore, the vivid red of the poppy came from the blood of their comrades soaking the ground.

In England in 1919, the British Legion sought an emblem that would honour the dead and help the living. The Red Poppy was adopted as that emblem and since then has been accepted as the Emblem of Remembrance.

The League adopted the idea in 1921, announcing:

"The Returned Sailors and Soldiers Imperial League of Australia and other Returned Soldiers Organisations throughout the British Empire and Allied Countries have passed resolutions at their international conventions to recognise the Poppy of Flanders' Fields as the international memorial flower to be worn on the anniversary of Armistice Day.”

Australians wear a Red Poppy on Remembrance Day for three reasons. Firstly, in memory of the sacred dead who rest in Flanders’ Fields. Secondly, to keep alive the memories of the sacred cause for which they laid down their lives; and thirdly, as a bond of esteem and affection between the soldiers of all Allied nations and in respect for France, our common battleground.

Today, cloth poppies are sold on, or around, 11 November each year. They are an exact replica in size and colour of the poppies that bloom in Flanders’ Fields. The RSL sells millions of red cloth poppies with proceeds going towards raising funds for welfare work.

Why the Last Post? (information sourced from the Australian War Memorial Website)

In military tradition, the Last Post is the bugle call that signifies the end of the day's activities. It is also sounded at military funerals to indicate that the soldier has gone to his final rest and at commemorative services such as ANZAC Day and Remembrance Day.

The Last Post is one of a number of bugle calls in military tradition that mark the phases of the day. While Reveille signals the start of a soldier's day, the Last Post signals its end.

The call is believed to have originally been part of a more elaborate routine, known in the British Army as "tattoo", that began in the 17th century. In the evening, a duty officer had to do the rounds of his unit's position, checking that the sentry posts were manned and rounding up the off-duty soldiers and packing them off to their beds or billets. The officer would be accompanied by one or more musicians. The "first post" was sounded when he started his rounds and, as the party went from post to post, a drum was played. The drum beats told off-duty soldiers it was time to rest; if the soldiers were in a town, the beats told them it was time to leave the pubs. (The word "tattoo" comes from the Dutch for "turn off the taps" of beer kegs; Americans call this "taps" or "drum taps".) Another bugle call was sounded when the officer's party completed its rounds, reaching the "last post" – this signalled that the night sentries were alert at their posts and gave one last warning to the other soldiers.

The Last Post was eventually incorporated into funeral and memorial services as a final farewell, and symbolises the duty of the dead is over and they can rest in peace.

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Member Comments About This Blog Post
    wow! Nice read.
    It gave me chills when I read about the red poppies!
    Thank you for sharing this.
    I'll never forget about the red poppies of Flanders Field!
    1619 days ago
    Thanks for sharing this information. I now understand Veterans day for New Zealand and Australia better.
    1620 days ago
  • FLYER99
    Thanks so very much for this. I remember my Dad who so valiantly fought in World War II. Lest we forget.
    1621 days ago
    Amazing blog and deeply appreciated.

    Thank you.
    1621 days ago
    Such a moving tribute 'Habitat;' and great explanations of these symbols. Just think it was almost 100 years ago and many have forgotten or never heard of the true bravery and sacrifice of so many... on both sides.
    "Taps" is still played at funerals in the U.S. It is very moving and reminds me of the words I learned in Girls Scouts (Girl Guides) to the tune of "Taps."
    "Day is done, gone the sun, from the lakes, from the hills, from the skies. All is well. Safely rest. God is nigh." Be blessed in the hallowed day and its remembrances. Blessings, JOY
    1621 days ago
    beautiful poem. Thank you for posting
    1621 days ago
    I feel a bit awkward posting on this one because I am a conscientious objector.

    I have visited the war graves in France and they were extremely moving,

    I think both sides always think that God is on their side. My husband's aunt was a very staunch German Catholic, and her brothers SS officers. She lost most of her family during the second world war, and believes that her brothers had no choice but to fight for their country. I think we always have a choice. We all have free will, it can just be incredibly difficult to exercise it.


    1621 days ago

    Comment edited on: 11/11/2013 12:31:49 AM
    A beautiful poem, although it was written for Australia, it can easily apply to all soldiers around the world, for tomorrow we honor those soldiers who fought to protect their countries and their beliefs, where ever they may live.
    1621 days ago
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