Remembrance Day is a date that stands out in my mind. In my formative years in Australia, it was always a big day in the cultural life of the country.
For Australians the Great War of 1914-1918 is a watershed in the wider historical conversation we have as a nation. It could be argued that with the blood of these many young Australians we became in our minds, truly one nation.
And because of this, I’d be very interested to discuss whether Remembrance Day should solely be about paying tribute to those who’ve died, or whether it should also warn us against ever going back to war.
Some question the connection of more recent wars to the scale and horror of the Great War.
Also is there a danger that in amongst the national pride, the flags and the parades, might we lose sight of the individual consequences that many still live with years after they fought?
Is it important that their voices are not drowned out and lost in ceremonies?
And perhaps more fundamental still, is the issue of whether a day or remembrance is helpful for those still living with their memories of war.
I know that for most it is right and proper to participate and remember in a public way. Yet for some, that lived through the horrors of the Great War it is not.
In my life there was at least one person I can recall that believed this.
I was touched and reminded of one of my own family stories of this war by this article and story of Claude Choules:
My family connection
My Great Grandfather Alexander (or Pa I called him) was on the Western Front for 5 years and was a despatch rider.
I had the great privilege to know him and he lived with us the last 4 years of his life.
Like Claude he found the memories of the war so painful he struggled to speak about it and you could see in the eyes of this old veteran this great pain of his life.
He was awarded 3 medals by grateful governments for his service and yet was against them being worn or displayed in public. He wept on times, when we as non-understanding young teenagers pressed him to tell us about his war experiences.
Both then and now I knew we could not understand the horror he lived through. He said to me, never go to war there are no winners, only losers, and certainly no glory.
For him Remembrance Day was every day and there was never ever any need to commemorate on any particular day.
This is Pa’s story and every Remembrance Day I remember this personal snippet of history and I can see him so clearly sitting in his favourite chair in my home.
How this great old man in his 80s and well over 6 feet tall would weep when we would unknowingly provoke memories he wanted to forget.
These memories of far off foreign fields some 50 years or more ago, at that time, plagued his life memory.
He could not forget, but wanted too and I have never forgotten his desire to forget and his heartfelt advice to me.
For some people, and I’d include Pa in this, Remembrance Day wasn’t something to treasure. It was more a reminder of things they want to forget.
I wonder if you have friends or relatives who feel that way too.