Tuesday, 11 November 2008

We will remember them

Today is the 11th November 2008. The first world war ended 90 years ago on this day. Three Gentlemen with a combined age of 330 laid wreaths at the cenotaph to commemorate. They were veterans of that conflict. From the Telegraph:

Great War veterans applauded on 90th anniversary
Three of the last four survivors of the Great War, with a combined age of 330, joined forces at The Cenotaph to mark the exact moment when the guns fell silent.

By Thomas Harding, Defence Correspondent Last Updated: 6:47PM GMT 11 Nov 2008
; http://link.brightcove.com/services/link/bcpid1488655367/bctid1913313243 http://www.brightcove.com/channel.jsp?channel=1139053637

The remarkable trio, the last historic focus for the commemoration, was led by Henry Allingham, Britain's oldest man at 112, an aircraft mechanic who saw action at sea, in the Battle of Jutland, and ashore on the Western Front.
Then there was Harry Patch, 110, a veteran of the horrors of Passchendaele, who is the only survivor of the trenches and Bill Stone, a relative junior at the age of 108, who ended up fighting two World Wars for the Royal Navy. Their faces a living memorial to the First World War, their presence a warning that the sacrifice of their colleagues they left behind should never be forgotten.
As a mark of respect the three men, covered in blankets in their wheelchairs to protect them from the biting wind, were accompanied by some of the most highly decorated serving personnel from the three Services.
L/Cpl Johnson Beharry, VC, helped lay the wreath for Mr Patch, who was injured in the bloody 1917 battle of Passchendaele. Mr Stone, the youngest veteran, was accompanied by Marine Mkhuseli Jones, MC. But it was down to the first female wearer of the Distinguished Flying Cross, Flt Lt Michelle Goodman, to help Mr Allingham place his memorial.
For four minutes Mr Patch struggled to rise out of his wheelchair watched by a silent group of onlookers that included the Prime Minister Gordon Brown and chiefs of the Armed Forces.
At one moment it appeared he had beaten the clock but he managed to rise only a few inches out of his chair.
As Big Ben struck at the 11th hour, of the 11th month, Mr Allingham was still fighting to place his own tribute to his fallen comrades. "Everyone was willing him to stand," said Alexandra Coode, a schoolteacher who was a few feet away. "But he just could not get up so he kissed the wreath to say goodbye. But he showed the spirit that got these men through the war."
The wreath was finally laid at his feet as the Royal Marine buglers sounded the Last Post followed by two minute's silence. Mr Allingham said: "I hope people realise what my pals sacrificed on their behalf. "May they never be forgotten. I can't describe what they mean to me."
The Right Reverend David Conner, Bishop to the Forces told the crowd of 5,000, that including more than 500 servicemen, to remember the price paid "by far too many people" in conflicts since the Great War.
In reference to Iraq and Afghanistan he added: "We shall most certainly not forget those who even at this very minute face danger as they try to make their contribution to the building of a safer future for our all too troubled world.
The ceremony complemented the commemorations that also took place on the site of the Battle of Verdun, France, attended by President Sarkozy, accompanied by his wife Carla Bruni, and the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall.
An estimated 20 million people were killed in the 1914-1918 war including 760,000 from Britain and the Commonwealth.
The Cenotaph service will almost certainly be the last significant anniversary that any of those who fought in the First World War will mark.
Of the five million men and women who served in the Armed Forces in the war, only four are still alive, including Claude Choules, 107, who lives in Australia.
After the ceremony Mr Patch, said: "It is important to remember the dead from both sides of the conflict. Irrespective of the uniforms we wore, we were all victims."

The second image is of the Commando memorial at Spean Bridge, Scotland. This is a desolate yet beautiful area and it is here that Allied Commandos underwent training during world war two. The US Rangers also underwent training there. It is a beautiful site worth a visit. What makes it particularly poignant are the nearby tributes to modern Commandos lost in Iraq/Afghanistan as well as local Scottish soldiers. I would like to dedicated this simple and unargumentative post to all those who served and have made the sacrifice. As well as those still serving along with their families.

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