Memories of Remembrance Sunday
When I was a young girl, growing up in rural England, I used to go to three services on Remembrance Sunday...
It was a long day. We’d start with the regular church service at 9.30am, followed by the flag service for the British Legion and Scouts in front of the village hall. I was a Girl Guide, my brother a Scout. We had prepared our uniforms the night before, shone our shoes and our mum had made sure our badges were all sewn on. It was a sombre event and the last post always sent shivers down my spine. After a hasty lunch we would get in the car and drive to Chiswick, in West London, where a remembrance service was held every year for my grandfather’s regiment, the 2/10 Middlesex Regiment (fondly known as the ‘Die Hards’). The church was dark, cavernous and the regiment’s flags hung dustily and threadbare from the walls. By now by brother and I were getting fidgety, and our thoughts would turn to the hot sausage rolls that would be served in the town hall after the service. But for now, the service beckoned. The last post played again. The minute’s silence began.
As a child I always found it hard to know what to think about during that minute. I hadn’t known my grandfather, who’d fought in World War One. I knew that he had been bitten by a camel and had been hospitalised with the bubonic plague, but I couldn’t picture him in combat. I struggled to concentrate during the long silence.
As an adult, I have had the opportunity to commemorate Remembrance Sunday in countries far from my home. The dawn service at Kranji War Memorial in Singapore was always very moving. People of all ages and from all nations would gather on the steamy hillside every year to remember those who had fought and died. It was so hot that some people would faint. Sausage rolls were replaced with scones. I found it easier to focus on the fallen during the minute’s silence. I could imagine them fighting in the jungle, patches of which still grew on the tiny island.
Now in Copenhagen, in a beautiful church similar to that in my village in England, I have had the chance to pay my respects back on European soil. The minute’s silence seems too short now. I have a thousand thoughts fleeting through my mind: the men and women who have sacrificed so much over the years to fight for peace, democracy, freedom; the families left behind; the tormented efforts to negotiate peace around the diplomatic tables… Lest we forget.