Acts of Remembrance

Published on
November 10, 2023
November 10, 2023
Written by
Alan Mairs
Written by
Sacro
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At this time of year, as with every year, Sacro remembers those who have lost their lives in past and present conflicts across the world.

This year we want to share two personal reflections from Sacro employees on what Remembrance means to them. Andrew, who has previously served in the armed forces, now works with our Veteran Mentoring Service to support fellow veterans. Steve mentors young men in need of support following imprisonment through the national New Routes service.

A personal reflection by Andrew Gray, Veterans Mentor

I have had many years to think about what the Act of Remembrance means to me as a serving soldier and now as a veteran. I always remember the prayer,

“Ever-living God we remember those whom you have gathered from the storm of war into the peace of your presence; may that same peace calm our fears, bring justice to all peoples and establish harmony among the nations, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen”.

Its easy to write we remember those killed in action over the conflicts we have been in, Northern Ireland, Iraq, and Afghanistan, I think of those guys every day, but I also remember my Great Grandfather who was killed at the battle of Arras in 1917. He has no known grave and is only remembered as a name on a war memorial in Kirknewton Northumberland and a war memorial in Belgium. Unfortunately, there are countless families like us.

I also reflect on colleagues I lost not through war or conflict. My roommate from over 40 years ago who was lost through drowning, a colleague who died through suicide and a colleague who took his own life as recently as this year. I take time to think about my peers who I served alongside and pray they get through the day as it can be extremely emotional. Just as importantly, I pray for my VMS work colleagues who I know have gone through traumatic events and survived.

I often wonder what the news coverage will be in 2041 when it will be 50 years since the first Gulf war. There is one certainty, I will raise a large glass to the fallen, no matter how or where they fell. May they Rest in Peace.

A personal reflection by Steve McKain, New Routes Mentor

Remembrance Day – Why We Must Always Remember

This year will mark the 105th anniversary of the end of The Great War. At 11:00am on the 11th of November 1918, the guns fell silent in Europe, marking the end one of the bloodiest, most catastrophic wars in history. An estimated nine million soldiers died in the conflict, in addition to the 23 million wounded. Almost 900 million shells were fired on the Western Front alone, of which a third were duds, and are still being found to this day in rural France and Belgium.

Spanning four years, The Great War, or The War to End All Wars as it was known at the time, changed the landscape of Europe, both physically and politically. New countries were formed. Other countries disappeared. There were revolutions in several countries, and many countries suffered economic depression. The aftermath of The Great War sowed seeds of hate in Europe, and ultimately led to the outbreak of war again in September 1939.

However, it is the events of 1914 – 1918 that began our Remembrance of those who fought in the conflict. Armistice Day, as it was known until after the Second World War, commemorates the armistice between the Entente Powers (Britain and France) and Germany on 11th November 1918, and the end of The Great War. The great symbol of Armistice Day, the poppy, was inspired by the war poem “In Flanders Fields”, written during the war by Canadian Lieutenant-Colonel John McCrae. The references to the red poppies growing over the graves of fallen soldiers led to the poppy becoming one of the most recognisable memorial symbols for soldiers who have died in conflict.

Remembrance Services in towns and cities across the country, at the Cenotaph in London, and on the former battlefields of France and Belgium are an important part of our history and tradition. Our drive, to keep alive the memory of those who made the ultimate sacrifice for our freedom, must never waver.

Words and phrases synonymous with The Great War such as Battle of the Somme and Verdun, remain as deep scars on British and French memory. On the first day of the Battle of the Somme, the British Army lost 57,420 men, of which 19,240 were killed. This is the single biggest loss in one day in the history of the British Army. Battalions of men, formed from local areas across the country, went over the top on the 1st of July 1916. Friends side by side. Professional footballers, in particular Duncan Currie, Harry Wattie and Ernest Ellis of Heart of Midlothian, went over the top with other volunteers, only to be cut down by German machine guns as they advanced across no-man’s land. They are commemorated on the Thiepval Memorial to the missing on the Somme, along with 72,334 others with no known grave.

Verdun holds similar significance for the French Army. The Douaumont Ossuary is a memorial containing the skeletal remains of 130,000 French and German soldiers who died on the battlefield during the Battle of Verdun. The viewing windows, and the sight of thousands of skulls looking back at you, is utterly chilling. These are the things children should be taught about The Great War. Not to glorify it, but to teach them, and remind us, of the horror of all wars.

In an ever-changing world, and as the years roll on, we must always remember the fallen in battle, and we must always educate future generations on conflict, beginning with the Great War. Although there are no surviving veterans, if you trace your family history back a couple of generations, there will be someone who was affected by the Great War, someone who lost a husband, a brother, or an uncle. These are the people we must remember. They are the ones who gave the ultimate sacrifice. And, as we wear our poppy to remember them, remember the words of Lieutenant-Colonel John McCrae, and his poem:

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.

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