So for this week, we have decided to talk about Remembrance. 103 years ago, on the 11th Hour of the 11th day of the 11th month, the Armistice Agreement was signed, and it finally marked the end of the First World War. With over 886,000 casualties across the British Empire alone, it was one of the bloodiest events in human history. Over 19,000 men died on the first day at the Battle of the Somme, completely shadowing any other operation after the Second World War. Even in the Second World War, there were over 380,000 soldiers that gave their lives so we could be free. But we do not just remember them. We also remember the over 70,000 civilian casualties from the Blitz.
We remember soldiers like John Condon, who joined the war effort and lost his life at only 14 years of age. We remember Wilfred Owen, famous poet who wrote ‘Dulce et Decorum Est’ and died in the last week of the war. Or Walter Tull, former football player and one of the first mixed heritage infantry officers in the British Army. We remember the Christmas Truce of 1914, where for just one day soldiers on both sides had a ceasefire, gave each other gifts and played football. Each of these stories being just as powerful as the last, teaching us the true horrors of war but at the same time, pointing out the humanity in soldiers no matter which country they fought for.
If you ever get the chance to go to Belgium, and more particularly Flanders, you will see just how many cemeteries that the Belgian people have dedicated to those who fell. The greatest monument you can see is in the town of Ypres, and it is called the Menin Gate. It is a memorial that contains the names of every soldier who fell that has no known grave. To this day, there are still over 54,000 names on the memorial. It really gives you an idea of just how destructive the First World War was. Yet at the Menin Gate, there is a great mark of respect shown by the people of Belgium. Every evening, since the day the Nazis were packed out of Ypres in WW2, they perform the Last Post ceremony. COVID did not stop this ceremony from taking place, although they went back down to a single bugle player instead of the usual group ceremony.
Below is a poem that one of our employees wrote to mark this important occasion.