Sacrifice and Peace
World War I finally ended with the signing of an Armistice to take effect on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month in 1918. The day was specifically dedicated by King George V, on 7 November 1919, to the observance of members of the armed forces who were killed during war.
The poppy's significance to Remembrance Day is a result of a poem by Canadian military physician John McCrae…
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.
The poppy emblem was chosen because of the poppies that bloomed across some of the worst battlefields of Flanders in World War I, their red colour an appropriate symbol for the bloodshed of trench warfare. Apparently a small number of people choose to wear white poppies to indicate a preference to look forward to peace rather than backward at the sacrifice.
We all want peace, but it came at a huge cost. In World War I around 10 million were killed in action and 30 million wounded. In World War II over 24 million were killed in action and there were over 30 million civilian causalities. What if the Allies hadn’t used military force to stop Adolf Hitler? Could Japanese imperialism have been halted without the nightmarish atomic bomb? We have no idea what the world would have been like without the sacrificial – and controversial – actions of war. But this we do know – we owe a huge debt of gratitude to those who went at the call of their country, many to pay the ultimate price in the field of combat, many others to return physically and emotionally scarred for life.
Soon it will be Christmas – already? We hear again about “peace and goodwill”, about the birth of Jesus, the Prince of Peace. We would like some cooler days, but don’t really “dream about a white Christmas”! Yet we want all the “whiteness” of Christmas Peace, without the “red” reality of the supreme Sacrifice that we remember when we get to Good Friday.
It was, in fact, Jesus who said, “Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.” And he added, “You are my friends, if you do what I command” (John 15.13-14). His is the Sacrifice that has made possible a Peace which no circumstance can take away from us.
Peter J Blackburn, Bluehaven Lodge, Ingham, Remembrance Day,11 November 2010