Remembrance Sunday 2015
This Sunday is Remembrance Sunday, (always held on the Sunday nearest 11th November), and if you want to know more about why it is what it is, there’s a helpful overview if you click HERE. The poppy has become the symbol of remembrance in the UK and is now ubiquitous, showing up on people’s lapels, bags, cars, tea towels and, I dare say, other things I’ve not even thought about. The poppy took its place because of the poem by John McCrae, “In Flanders Fields.”
This year, however, I have been amazed to see that there is so much controversy about this lovely little flower. All over the internet there are people talking in quite aggressive terms about the way to wear a poppy; what colour the poppy should be and, heaven help us, what kind of a human being you are if you choose not to wear one at all!
Poppy controversy is not new. I have Friends, (capital letter because they do belong to the Society of Friends or Quakers), who have been spat on in the street because they choose to wear a white poppy which symbolises peace.
This year I have also seen purple poppies on sale and these are to remember all the animals who died in war . You can read more about the poppy and all the controversy on the BBC website.
My personal opinion is that people should be able to choose for themselves whether or not to wear a poppy of any colour and not be condemned by anyone else for that choice.
I choose to wear both red and white poppies and will be wearing the brooch, pictured above, this week. I choose to wear white because I follow the Prince of Peace and I aspire to live a peaceful life. I also hope for a time when peace will be the natural state for all God’s children. I choose red because I have a very personal link with a soldier who fought in the 2nd World War. Here is a brief snapshot of his story.
Em was born in the Swansea Valley, South Wales in 1919, just a few short months after the end of World War I. He grew up, the youngest of 11 children in a small house in small village whose inhabitants relied on the local collieries for work. Em was just 14 when he left school to take his own place in coal mines. It’s an understatement to say that it was hard, dangerous work. He’d only been working a few weeks when his father, also a collier, was killed in the mine, when one of the lode stones gave way causing that part of the mine to collapse. Em’s wages were a vital part of the family’s income and for him, it really was a case of work or starve. Two years later and Em was looking for a way out of the mines. He lied about his age and joined the army in 1935. He joined the Royal Army Service Corps, the Army’s transport and logistical unit that supplied transportation for the troops as well as training up the tank drivers and making sure that the Army had the vehicles and troops it needed, where and when they were needed.
Four years later, the newly married Em went to war.
He served in Egypt alongside the 8th Army and in 1944 took part in the Normandy Landings. It was his response to an incident in Normandy that saw him awarded with the King’s Medal for Brave Conduct. A short time after the main landings, Em, (now a Warrant Officer, Company Sergeant Major), and his company came under attack from enemy aircraft. Em saw that the munitions tent had been hit by an incendiary bomb and was beginning to go up in flames. He, (and two others who saw and then followed him), ran in to the tent and began to remove the munitions so that they would not ignite and blow everyone to smithereens. It was indeed, a very brave thing to do. Back home in Blighty, Em’s pregnant wife and small daughter knew nothing about it until Em’s name was published in The Gazette in August 1944, which merely stated that he’d been awarded the honour, but gave no mention of why. It took another 22 years before Em told his family how he’d won his medal. Em, like many of his generation, rarely spoke about his experience of the Second World War. He was stoic and brave and he felt that he had only done what he should have done. He felt a great connection to his comrades and every year he took part in the Remembrance Parade in the city. Always smart and well-turned out he wore his medals alongside his red poppy.
Sadly, he no longer marches with his comrades as he died many years ago. Each November, I remember his service. Each November I remember him with deep love and affection. I wear my red poppy for Em; my Dad.