Friday, 7 November 2008

On Remembrance Sunday, Thank You!

Private John Robert Lowerson

This is a photo of my uncle Jack, a young lad of about sixteen when this photograph was taken. He looks so young, just a boy really and like so many he gave his life for us all.

Sadly, millions of families all over the world have one. A photograph of a dearly loved dad, husband, son, brother or boyfriend who went away to war and never came back. Nowadays it can be a mother, wife, daughter, sister or girlfriend.

My Uncle Jack was my Nanna's big brother, only a year older than she was and only 16 when he went to France to fight. He was killed on 1 July 1916 and he was only 18 years old. What a waste!

This is his memorial on the War Graves Commission website.

Here are some of the historical details about the events of that day and its consequences, extracted from the War Graves Commission website:
On 1 July 1916, supported by a French attack to the south, thirteen divisions of Commonwealth forces launched an offensive on a line from north of Gommecourt to Maricourt. Despite a preliminary bombardment lasting seven days, the German defences were barely touched and the attack met unexpectedly fierce resistance.

Losses were catastrophic and with only minimal advances on the southern flank, the initial attack was a failure. In the following weeks, huge resources of manpower and equipment were deployed in an attempt to exploit the modest successes of the first day. However, the German Army resisted tenaciously and repeated attacks and counter attacks meant a major battle for every village, copse and farmhouse gained.

At the end of September, Thiepval was finally captured. The village had been an original objective of 1 July. Attacks north and east continued throughout October and into November in increasingly difficult weather conditions. The Battle of the Somme finally ended on 18 November with the onset of winter.

In the spring of 1917, the German forces fell back to their newly prepared defences, the Hindenburg Line, and there were no further significant engagements in the Somme sector until the Germans mounted their major offensive in March 1918.
Sadly Uncle Jack doesn't have a grave, he was one of thousands of men whose bodies were never recovered. His name is on the Thiepval Memorial which commemorates all those missing in the Battle of the Somme. It has over 72,000 names of the men and officers of the United Kingdom and South African forces who died in the Somme sector before 20 March 1918 and have no known grave. Over 90% of those commemorated died between July and November 1916.

The memorial was designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens and was built between 1928 and 1932 and unveiled by the Prince of Wales, in the presence of the President of France, on 1 August 1932. Every year a major ceremony is held at the Thiepval Memorial to commemorate those who were killed. I've never visited the Memorial but maybe I should and take my grandson Nathan to see it.

I remember my Mam telling me how close my Nanna and her brother had been as there was only a year between them. He wrote to her very often after he left for France. Sadly I don't have any of the letters he wrote but I do have his Bible. It was presented to him by his Sunday School Teacher in May 1911 and Jack recorded the details himself in the front of it. His Bible was given to my Mam in 1933 when she was 11 years old. It's a bit tatty now, it's nearly a hundred years old, the print is so tiny I can hardly read it but I value it so much.

When I was learning history at school they never taught us about the World Wars and I don't know why. It's ninety years since the end of The Great War as they called it. I don't know what was great about it! Nowadays thankfully they do cover modern history in the schools and the sacrifices that people made so that we can live in freedom. Children are now encouraged by the schools to wear their poppies. The poppies are sold by the British Legion to aid men and women who are serving today, as well as ex-Services and their dependants. So we wear our poppies with pride.

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

John McCrae (1915)

Canadian poet John McCrae was a medical officer in both the Boer War and World War I. In 1918 McCrae died at the age of 46, in the way most men died during that war, not from a bullet or bomb, but from disease: pneumonia, in his case.

Seaham Cenotaph

We might not agree with the wars that are fought but it's important that our children do learn about what happened. It's also important they never forget what people have done for us and sadly are still doing today.

This morning, Remembrance Sunday, there is a ceremony of remembrance in Trafalgar Square and there will be other ceremonies throughout the country. On Tuesday, the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month there will be another major remembrance ceremony in Trafalgar Square and two minutes silence will be held there and throughout the country.

Yes, we will remember them. How could we forget?


  1. You've posted a beautiful tribute. I believe we have all lost someone dear to us in one of the wars. But I was also lucky, I had my maternal Grandfather come home safely, my Father and his Brother, also my husband and my older Brother, plus several cousins. And the last one to come home safely was our Granddaughter who was with the Patriot Missile group from Ft. Bliss Texas and was in Baghdad six months. I did lose one Uncle they never found, and my husbands nephew who died in the Vietnam War.

  2. I hope you keep this post up for a long time Winifred. Occasionally I like to come back and reread posts. It is so interesting to me personally, to have someone I know from another part of the world tell the story like I may not have a chance to hear about in my country. I really appreciate you doing this post.
    I have thought about doing some about my family. I have a picture of my grandfather in World War I and some of my dad in World War II. I already have them on my genealogy site. I would like to come back and read this again later. Have a great day!

  3. Winifred,

    I tried leaving a comment this morning before I left for church, but could not. The computer kept freezing on your page, but nowhere else, so I don't know what the problem was/is. I am hoping it will go through this time.

    Beautifully touching and sad post about Remembrance Sunday, and your Uncle who died at such a young age during Word War I. So many paid the ultimate sacrifice in that war, and wars that followed, and yes, we will never forget that, or them. I am glad you have his bible.

    My grandfather was in the Austro-Hungarian army and was wounded and captured and spent two years in a Russian prison, but was eventually able to escape and lived to tell about it. I lived through World War II as a child, and some of the horrors of that war still haunt my dream, occassionally. War is always hell, for all involved. Let us pray for peace, as we remember those who have lost their lives.

    Of course, we celebrate Veterans Day in the US on Tuesday.

    I didn't mean to make this comment so long. Please forgive my wordiness. Your post was beautiful and touching.

    Take care!


  4. Thank you for your lovely comments. Maybe we should all post about our families and photographs of them in relation to wars. It would be nice to see your pictures. As Brenda says it would give us another perspective into this. We tend to see the world from our own point of view.

    Rene is right about the horrors of war and it's really sad she still has nightmares about it. Thankfully we're living in better times but we're still not really at peace.

    I have very few photographs only a couple of my Dad who served in the Royal Navy and none of my Granddad who was in the army in WW1. As I get older I get more interested in this. I think it's time I did some research. My daughter is very interested so maybe we could do it together.

    I just wish I had been interested when I was younger and could have talked about it to my grandparents about WW1 and my parents about WW2.

    I feel awful as it seems I wasn't interested. I was born at the end of WW2 and my Mam often talked about how life was during the war. She told me about the rationing and queues for food, the bombing, the air raid shelters, gas masks they had to wear and the little box she had for me when I was a baby that had a built in gas mask.

    I feel so guilty when I moan about things today when I think of what she went through, all those problems and everyday worrying about being invaded and whether my Dad would ever come back.

    My Dad never did talk about his time in the Royal Navy in WW2, neither did my Grandad talk about WW1 when he served in Salonika.

    When I watched the memorial service on TV today the commentator said that the ex servicemen tend not to talk about it with people who weren't involved. They only talk amongst themselves and at reunions. My Dad & Grandad never went to any reunions so maybe they just wanted to put the past behind them. I just wish I had asked them.

  5. Luckily, all of my relatives made it home from WWII. One had two terrible close calls and a lifetime of medical problems from his injuries. He didn't serve in the European theatre, but in the South Pacific. On Iwo Jima to be specific. Still, he was a hero as was your uncle. The world would have been a very different place without men like him and your family's sacrifice.

  6. I like your Remembrance Sunday peace. Thank you for the prayer for Bennie.

  7. Dear Win,

    What a great post. Tomorrow, we will observe "Veteran's Day" here in the US. I bought a poppy this past weekend. My mom and Grandma always bought poppies and put them on the handle of their purses, so I do too.

    I memorized "In Flanders Fields" sometime during my school days and still say it from time to time. I wish they required kids to memorize in school today. I think it's good for their minds, and in this case for their souls.

    Thanks again for the post.

    ~hippo hugs~

  8. that is a super post, and for your uncle to die so young is a crying shame.

    I just also want to thank you for all the comments you leave on my blog, I have been super busy these past few days.

    Gill in Canada

  9. Beautiful post...what a lovely tribute!

    I dream of a day when wars are no longer a part of our world...


  10. This is a great post. We should be thankful for those who fight for our freedom!

  11. My father's brother died of the flu after the Great War. That has been our only loss. We've been lucky.

  12. I watched the Armistice ceremony at Whitehall today and saw the three last British survivors of WW1. The oldest Henry Allingham is the oldest man in Europe and he's 112. Can you believe it! He has outlived his wife and his children. The youngest was 108.

  13. Winifred,
    What a beautiful tribute to your Uncle Jack, and for all the brave men & women who continue to sacrifice for our freedom.We must never forget. If not for them our lives would be very different. My Grandfather Harold, fought in World War 1. He was 22 when he went to war and came home very ill. My beloved Grandmother, lovingly, cared for him till he died at age 36.My other Grandfather, Thomas, served in the Australian Navy, retired as a Captain and lived to 93. My Uncle Adrian served in the Australian Navy 20 years. He was the son of Grandfather Harold. I am proud, and grateful to them. Marjorie

  14. This was such a nice post. Now I wonder if the U.S. which celebrated Veteran's Day on Tuesday is always the same day as yours.

  15. Hello Winifred - found you at "Gill - that British Woman" and decided to look in.

    A great post and very moving. So many young men lost and so many stories still to be told. I lost an uncle and he is buried in a war cemetary in Italy.

    It is such an important part of our history. My 4 year old grand-daughter, seeing a poppy lying in the road, picked it up and explained to her mummy that during the war lots of men died and when the mud dried the first flower to grow was the poppy. A story so many of us know and my daughter was touched to hear her little girl telling about it.

    We should never forget.


  16. Dear Winifred ~~ Great post for Remembrance Day. We call it that in Australia and hold it on 11th November every years since WW 1. I love
    that poem "In Flanders Fields."
    Thanks for your comment. I had a wonderful week with my brother Peter and his mate, Warren.
    I am just getting back to normal now.
    Take care, my friend, Love, Merle.


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