TBT: Veterans’ Day 2018, Commemoration of the Great War, and Poppies

Today is Veterans’ Day, formerly known as Armistice Day, marking the end of the First World War.

Seeing as it falls on a Thursday this year, it seemed overly appropriate to feature this 2018 Veterans’ Day post.

I don’t have anymore to add that I didn’t say better in 2018, so with that, here is 13 November 2018’s “Veterans’ Day 2018, Commemoration of the Great War, and Poppies“:

The following remarks were delivered to the Florence County Republican Party at its 12 November 2018 monthly program, which was dedicated to honoring veterans.

Yesterday Americans, Europeans, and the world commemorated the 100th anniversary of the end of the Great War, what we call the First World War.  The Armistice that silenced the guns of one of the most brutal conflicts in human history was signed in the wee hours of 11 November 1918, but did not take effect until 11 AM—the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month.  That bit of numerical symmetry, while memorable, cost an additional 2738 lives, with 10,944 casualties—a pointless denouement to a destructive war.

Peace would ultimately come to Europe—after three prolongations of the Armistice—in 1920 with the ratification of the Treaty of Versailles (the United States, refusing to join the League of Nations, negotiated a separate treaty with Germany, the Treaty of Berlin, in 1921).  That treaty, which the Germans called the Diktat because of its severity, and because it pinned the war solely on the German Empire, was a reflection of the Armistice signed three years earlier.

In preparing tonight’s remarks, I came across an article that describes the first meeting between Marshall Foch, the commander-in-chief of the Allied forces, and Matthias Erzberger, a middle-aged German politician who had come to sue for peace.  The Frenchman looked stonily at the German peace delegation, and said, “Tell these gentlemen I have no proposals to make.”  Rather, Marshal Foch had a number of demands to issue, thirty-four in total, including Germany’s agreement to pay heavy reparations.

In hindsight, we know the folly of trying to squeeze blood and treasure from the turnip that was a starving, reduced Germany—and the radicalism it, in part, inspired.  But we have to understand, as best we can, the bitterness and weariness the Great War wrought.  Millions of men in Europe had lost their lives, or were maimed for life, fighting in the war.  The republican governments of France and Britain were not willing to accept peace without something to show for it; their people (and voters) would not have accepted it.  Indeed, Marshall Foch told his staff he intended “to pursue the Feldgrauen [field grays, or German soldiers] with a sword at their backs” until the moment the Armistice went into effect.  One cannot help but wonder that the fighting in this final hours was motivated, in part, by a mutual bloodlust, and an opportunity to settle scores one last time before the clock struck eleven.

From the grime and death of the Great War, however, grew new hope—a hope for peace, yes, but also a hope that humanity could avoid such a devastating conflict again.  That hope—and the enduring hope for a world built on peace and understanding—is poignantly symbolized in the flowering of the churned up “No Man’s Land,” the pock-marked area between Allied and German trenches.  Immortalized in Canadian Lieutenant-Colonel John McCrae’s “In Flanders Fields,” poppies were first flowers to bloom in that graveyard of Western civilization.  To this day, the crimson of the poppies serves as a reminder of the men who made the ultimate sacrifice for their countries, and that even in death, life endures.

I will close this somewhat grim Historical Moment with a brief reading of that poem; it can commemorate the men there far better than I:

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.

3 thoughts on “TBT: Veterans’ Day 2018, Commemoration of the Great War, and Poppies

  1. Tioday is such a poignant one for me because my own grandfather fought in the trenches in The Great War and lived but did not tell the tale. He was, like many, very reticent to speak of his experiences. May we remember all those who fought in that most terrible war and also not forget that many of those who died were young working class men from poor areas of Britain. Also, working class men of that period did not have the right to vote until the 1918 Representation Of The People Act – some 45% of men aged 21 or over. May we never forget, nor allow others to forget the sacrifices made in all wars by all servicemen.

    Liked by 3 people

  2. I apologise for tainting this excellent and poignant article with the tawdry events of today but I’d just like to respond to this sentence:

    ‘From the grime and death of the Great War, however, grew new hope—a hope for peace, yes, but also a hope that humanity could avoid such a devastating conflict again. ‘

    The closing of the Great War and the Second World War signalled a unity amongst nations, that we would move on from the horror of both wars while never forgetting the sacrifice of those who fought and those who died. The left, in the last couple of decades, have been slowly unravelling all of that, to the point that many of us find ourselves at war with our own governments with mass divisions opening up across our nations. Whether in the States, the UK, Canada, France, the Netherlands, Australia, New Zealand, Italy, Germany or practically most democratised nations, we find our governments have turned on us. They seek to divide us by pigeon holing us into genders, sexuality, ethnicity, religion, and even our views. Over the last nearly 2 years, they have sought to create further division based on vaccine status and mask/Covid related compliance. Some of the language used by governments, and their friends in the media, have echoes of the past, the sort of language you’d hope media and government would resist from using due to their connotations with the division escalated during the second world war. They have not learned the lessons of history and conflict has been forced on us again, whether we like it or not.

    I very much hope that good wins out, as it did in 1918 and 1945 and our countries learn the lessons of the last 2 years, never to repeat them again but since they learned nothing from 2 of the most devastating conflicts in recent history, what makes us think they will in this case?

    On Sunday, here in the UK, many people will be at their various remembrance services, marking both wars reverently and remembering the sacrifice that gave us the freedoms we have today. The very freedoms that our leaders have been removing and yet they will also be there, unapologetically and without irony bowing their heads to men and women who were much finer than they could ever hope to be.

    We will respect the dead and those who survived the wars. We will respect and honour those who continue to fight for us and we will remember what those who are no longer there did for us. I don’t think a single one of our leaders will think about that.

    Liked by 3 people

  3. Excellent PP. I’m also reminded that today is the Feast day of St. Michael, the patron saint of the infantry, and that too seem appropriate.

    Today also marks the 100th anniversary of the burial of the American Unknwn soldier as well as the 101st of the British Unknown Warrior and the award of the only Victoria Cross to anb Amerrican, that Unknown Soldier as well as the first of a mere half dozen awards of our Medal of Honor to a foreign soldier, all to unknowns of the Great War, first amongst them the British Unknown Warrior.

    Liked by 3 people

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