Remembrance Sunday

Today is Armistice Day.
From For the Fallen by Lawrence Binyon
They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years contemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.

Today I’ve been thinking of my father, who was in the Green Howards Regiment and he took part in the D-Day landings on 6 June 1944. He was discharged from the Army in December 1944 as his Army Service Book records for “ceasing to fulfil Army physical requirements”. He didn’t talk about it to me at all . My mother told me that he suffered from shell shock and was in hospital immediately after D-Day for quite a while. She moved to Lancaster to be near him in the hospital. During the war she had worked in a factory where they made parachutes. The effects of shell shock lingered quite a while, as my mother told me he was very depressed. He did recover and I never would have thought my dad was ever depressed – when I knew him he was always cheerful and never seemed to worry about anything. Both my parents are dead now and I wish now that I had asked them more about their lives.

This makes me think I should know more about the war. There are many books and we have just a few. The Second World War: a narrative history by John Ray covers the campaigns and theatres of war. I have started to read this but am only a short way into it. Then there is the Band of Brothers by Stephen Ambrose about the Easy Company, 101st Airborne Division, of the US Army, covering the period from 1942 to D-Day and victory. We watched the televised series of this and have it on DVD, definitely one to revisit.

For fiction there are Melvyn Bragg’s books The Soldier’s Return, A Son of War, and Crossing the Lines, although covering the period from 1946 up to the 1950s are wonderful books and look back at the war period as well as showing what life was like in the aftermath of the second world war. Another book set in the period just after the war is One Fine Day by Mollie Panter-Downes (which I wrote about here). I’ve also recently read Eliza Graham’s Playing with the Moon, a novel about the legacy of war, looking back over 60 years from the present day to the time when the Americans were training on the Dorset coast in preparation from D-Day and local people were evacuated from their homes. I’ll write more about this book in another post. BBC’s Countryfile this morning also covered these events in its film about Exercise Tiger on Slapton Sands when US landing crafts for D-Day were intercepted by German U-boats and two were sunk. The 1940s and 1950s are years that I really want to look at in more detail.

7 thoughts on “Remembrance Sunday

  1. This is the second recommendation today for Mollie Panter-Downes One Fine Day. I am so looking forward to reading it.It is remarkable what our parents and grandparents went through and survived during the war years. They were a great generation.


  2. I too would like to learn more about WW2. I’ve tended to read more about WWI for some reason and where WW2 is concerned have concentrated more on The Holocaust. I’ve also read a few memoirs (from the library), usually various soldiers experiences and so forth. The rise of Nazism has started to interest me too, how did it happen and so forth. Just read a tiny little book called Address Unknown by Kressman Taylor, which I found chilling. I’m not sure why I’m so fascinated by the two world wars, maybe I feel we *should* know about how people fought in them and suffered and died. Because we owe our freedom to them I think I feel it’s the least we can do. Will make a note of the books you recommend in your post.


  3. We are all indebted to the soldiers who took part in D-Day and indeed all over the globe in WWII. Thanks for sharing about your father. He was a true hero.I visited my father today and he had a little red/white/blue ribbon pinned on that he had been given this morning as a remembrance of Veteran’s Day, as it is called here in the US. He, too, was a WWII veteran and was stationed in the Pacific for 3 years (1942-1945). He never talked about what happened during that time, but even now, with Alzheimer’s, is proud to be recognized for his service.


  4. I don’t think there is any time or place which interests me more than Great Britain in the 1940s and 1950s. I love to learn about any titles written then. A book I want to read is Mollie Panter-Downes’ Letter From London. Very nice words about your father. That generation simply did not talk about what had happened to them. My father was in the war, too, and I know practically nothing. I do have some scrapbooks my mother kept, and I’ve thought about donating them to some sort of historical society.


  5. Thanks everyone. I too feel I “should” know more. It’s amazing what they went through.Nan I think it would be great to donate your scrapbooks, or maybe publish them in some form. Here we have Archive depositories (Record Offices – I used to work in one)where you can deposit documents and still retain ownership and take them out yourself if you want to.


  6. Sorry to nit-pick over an old column, but I find many copies of Binyons poem on the web using the word ‘contemn’, when every version of the poem published during his lifetime used the word ‘condemn’. I was just wondering where everyone gets ‘contemn’ from.


    1. Andrew I can’t remember where I found that version of For the Fallen. This extract from Wikipedia may throw some light on the two words – or maybe it doesn’t!

      There has been some debate as to whether the line “Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn” should end with the words ‘condemn’ or ‘contemn’. Contemn means to ‘despise’ therefore either word would make sense in the context of the stanza.

      When the poem was first printed in The Times on 21 September 1914 the word ‘condemn’ was used. This word was also used in the anthology The Winnowing Fan: Poems of the Great War in 1914 in which the poem was published later. If the original publication had contained a misprint Binyon would have had the chance to make amendments, so it seems unlikely that the word ‘contemn’ was meant. [4]

      The issue of what word was meant seems only to have arisen in Australia, with little debate in other Commonwealth countries that mark Remembrance Day.


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