“They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.”
(“For the Fallen”, Laurence Binyon, 1914)
A plaque on the cliffs at Polzeath, North Cornwall commemorates Binyon’s writing the poem there in 1914. The most well known quatrain from the poem is the one which Binyon wrote first; its restrained yet emotional lyricism makes it a poem in itself.
The stanza is regularly recited at Remembrance Sunday services and Remembrance Day, November 11th, services in the UK, Canada and the Commonwealth. It is also used at Anzac Day services in Australia and New Zealand. Its simple message resonates with many as they pay their respects to those who gave their lives in the Great War and in battles and conflicts since 1918.
Anzac stands for Australian and New Zealand Army Corps, and Anzac day marks the remembrance of the first major casualties they suffered in the First World War.
As Binyon’s poem is the most famous poem; the red Flanders poppy, the field poppy, is the best known symbol, especially in the UK. Used by the Royal British Legion for their Poppy Appeal fundraising to help ex-servicemen and women throughout the year. But it is by no means the only flower that grows in Flanders field to commemorate those who died; I’ve written about the exemplary work of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission and their Gardens of Remembrance elsewhere.
My family got off lightly, if that’s the phrase; we had one man missing in action, the rest came home more or less physically whole. But I shall be paying my respects at the War Memorial, to my great uncle John and to all those others who sacrificed their lives; and giving thanks that my nephew came safely home.