No names are carved in bronze or stone,
of those still suffering, those who came home,
with limbless trunks and sightless eyes.
What’s life for them can you surmise?
Some never move from their wheelchair,
or leave their beds, taste God’s fresh air.
Thinking of the battles on the cruel sea,
of all their pals who used to be.
Of no man’s land where shot and shell,
had made it all a muddy hell.
Of steaming jungles and desert sand,
the treks across those foreign lands.
Of air fights over Britain, those heroes every one,
to turn the tide of war till victory won.
Do you ever think of those who nurse,
of those who took them for better or worse,
who feed and bath, tie bows or wipe a nose,
sometimes to dry a tear, or to comfort those.
The wives who minister to their call,
remember them who gave their all.
Such duty has earned them all our gratitude,
and a coat of arms inscribed, Service and Fortitude.
Sydney T. l. Tilley,
British Limbless Ex-Service Association
Jesus used an ancient Hebrew word for peace translated as Shalom. It means wholeness and harmony and is therefore much more than the absence of war and conflict. People of faith are called to leave the fragrance of Shalom wherever they are. They are also called to create communities of Shalom which are small signs of life and love and reconciliation in a world in which ethnic conflict, nationalism and neo-tribalism are sadly on the increase. That is what I seek to do as a citizen of the world, as a priest and as a padre in the Royal Army Chaplain’s Department. I am sure my practice falls far short of that ideal, but nevertheless it remains my goal.
Marble plaque, cold and grey,
just like the day
many of them fell;
stumbling wet through sticky mud,
heavy-laden with rifle and fear,
walking – as per the orders barked by a sergeant –
into the mouths of snarling machine guns.
Marble plaque, granite-cold and grey,
holding, chiselled in its heart,
all the names, so many names,
the litany of names
of those this small village gave
to that corner of a foreign field,
forever now an English grave.
Marble plaque, old and cold and grey,
yet warming hearts in remembrance
of those young lives, given for this nation.
We honour them this year of commemoration
in poppy-seeds, silence, song and prayer;
we honour them best by going to war against war.
Revd. Tim Sumpter
Vicar of Ockbrook with Borrowash.
In our prayers, we ask for an end to conflicts around the world, and our best hope is that we recognise the humanity in others, as Quakers would say “There is something of God in everyone”. That basic humanity is what we have in common and we all, wherever we are, want to live in peace. By caring for each other, we have a chance of success.
A measure of hope helps sustain the human through troubles and struggles.
Wars always end around a table, a treaty written, agreements made. Millions are mourned while peace is made, lives lost, all over now. If a war must end around a table, amid diplomats and leaders, there is no reason why it can’t be prevented there. We need leaders, diplomats, politicians who will talk before the first shot is fired, not after.
I saw a tower crumbling
I saw a steeple fall
I heard the people laughing
But the devil laughed most of all
I saw a mushroom growing
Tall into the sky
And somewhere in the nowhere
I heard an angel cry
I saw the nations playing
Their games of hate and fright
In the beginning twas bright as morning
In the end there was only the night
I watched a songbird singing
But the music had all gone
And the end is surely beginning
When a blackbird has no songbird
And the people laughed and cavorted
Made love and played the fool
And they never knew God was weeping
And I doubt they'd have cared at all.
By Julie Fox
Peace as opposed to war? No such thing, there is always war somewhere or other, larger or smaller but always happening and people always dying. Oh yes, we are not actually charging around with rifles in Derbyshire. The first World Nations have become powerful enough to keep the conflicts at arm’s length, on the other side of the world, amongst people who aren't “US”. But it is there still, even though we can only see it on the News.
The only true peace is inner peace. Peace with yourself and with those you love and most importantly, peace with God. I have spent a lifetime chasing this and still pray I will achieve it before I die.
We remember because it raises difficult issues including the paradoxes of fear and valour, violence and compassion, sacrifice and slaughter that cannot be easily answered by Christianity or by human reason. It is for this reason that we remember, to try to make some sort of sense out of the nonsense and to learn from the mistakes so that, with the help of God, we should not repeat them.
I seems to me that the Church must take seriously the warnings of Jesus – Mark ch13, 7&8.
Equally it must accept gladly and share what he promised (John ch14, 27) and the words of Philippians ch4, 7 which are heard so often every Sunday.
So much of this can only be by example and in fulfilment of Jesus’ prayer (John ch17, 22)
Here again we fail – consider our covenant with the Methodist Church 10+ years and the correspondence in the Church Times about that on 30th May.
We cannot easily share how Jesus made peace with God (Romans 5:1) without provoking Adrian Mole’s father’s comment in Sue Townsend’s ‘The Prostate Years’ “He murdered his own son and now he murders mine.”
Thank God for the commission he has given us but what a challenge and how awesome a responsibility in the world today.
Conflict is started by grievance – real or real or imagined – against some other people. Fed by those whose minds have become set against someone or something. Fed by the naturally aggressive, persuading others of the rightness of their opinions. Everyone craves for peace but the world is riven with wars and hatred. Mistrust of others inhibits the search for peace. To resolve distrust and hatred without resort to war requires belief in God. It requires all people to believe in one God. Multiplicity of religious observance does not have to breed mistrust or hatred if teachers are not misguided.
The world has become much more complicated now. So hope is the only way forward. The experts and politicians have all, looking back, failed. This only leaves hope and we pray that our God will steer us through these man-made problems.
It is not easy for today’s Christians to come to terms with the carnage in the First World War, even a century after the outbreak of that harrowing conflagration. For over four years Christian Europe tore itself apart at a time when church attendance was high, and many politicians paid lip service to the teachings of “the Prince of Peace.” For the conflict led to slaughter on an unprecedented scale, when millions perished from the machine gun, shell fire and aerial bombardment.
While dependence on cavalry had come to an end, the tank and armoured car were still in their infancy and not yet fully effective. Hence, fighting was often static and trench bound, except when troops went “over the top” into no man’s land and were at the mercy of enemy machine gun fire.
Yet pre 1914 the politicians, generals and diplomats did not anticipate a long war with a colossal death toll.
The War witnessed the mass slaughter of the conscripted youth of Europe and beyond. All Christians must surely deprecate such calamitous events. Few in 1914 expected the war to be so prolonged or so costly in lives. If the powers that be had known what was to unfold, would they have desisted from such a course? The plea of Jesus on the Cross resonates down the ages. “Father forgive them for they know not what they do.” It still confronts us today.
Snuggled in my warmest clothes
The Cenotaph ahead,
I weep to hear so many names
So many young men, dead.
I wish I could say thank you
For the sacrifice you gave
But once a year, November
We put poppies on your grave
The Commemoration of the First World War is important for people of all ages to be reminded that the War is not an historical event that ended in 1918 and was fought in a different century that has very little relevance to people of the 21st Century. We must continue to learn the lessons of what holding absolute views, ideologies and beliefs in religion and politics can lead to in our current age- fundamentalism and apathy. Both the British and German Nations and military believed that God was on their side and that he would lead them to victory. How wrong they both were, for surely God would not want to be an architect of a conflict that destroyed some 16 to 19 million lives and for what? Did allegiance to God advance His Kingdom on earth for the victors? The evidence is that the War destroyed faith for some and radicalised it for others, especially in the rise of Christian Socialism. The evil we battle today is that of not learning lessons from the past. Still today people believe that they are right and others are wrong, whether it be Muslim against Christian or visa versa, or Serb against Muslim or Shia against Sunni. The other evil is apathy- not caring or feeling that we are powerless to do anything to change things. Where we fail to see the image of God within our neighbour a vacuum is created that can be filled by the horrors of genocide and the indiscriminate destruction of life through terrorism etc. The First World War may have ended in 1918 but it did not bring a peace that would last, but the fudge and desire for spoils of the victors in making the so called peace has led to conflicts that continue to this day in Syria and Iraq especially.
Many soldiers entered the war with high hopes, and the promise that this country could be made fit for heroes to live in was widely accepted. Those hopes were still there at the end of the war, but for many by then it was based on little more than a sense of relief that the war was over. These hopes rapidly turned to disappointment and then disillusionment. Political and economic realities were such that within a few years some of these heroes were begging on the streets.
Without hope and underlying ideals however all would have totally wasted, and ideals such as freedom, peace, democracy and human rights are still with us, however imperfect our world still is.
During the war, many must have thought that God had abandoned humanity, but that he never did. Jesus made it clear that pain, hurt and suffering will always be in the world, but that doesn't mean it is what we should accept, for Jesus is our ultimate example who gave His all to demonstrate that another way is possible, and this way will in the end overcome. We must never forget the suffering and loss of the war, but we must also remember the hope of God's Kingdom, and actively work for it.