We Will Remember Them

Today is Armistice Day which, on this 11th November, marks the 100th anniversary of the start of World War One.  Today in  London, a young cadet will plant the last in a sea of ceramic poppies in the grounds of The Tower of London: one poppy, 888,246 of them, for every British and Colonial soldier, sailor and airman who perished in the First World War.

This moving and poignant artwork – Blood Swept Lands And Seas Of Red – was created by artist Paul Cummins and it is he who will hand the last poppy to the young cadet just before 11 o’clock this morning.

Commemorations will also take place to honour the fallen in the Second World War, with today marking 70 years since the D-Day landings and the end of Britain’s conflict in Afghanistan.

On the hour at 11 o’clock this morning, a two-minute silence will be held across our land in remembrance of all the fallen and the great sacrifice given by so many.  I wonder what men like my husband’s grandfather would make of this day.

Young Dorset boy Walter Ridout joined up as a volunteer in the Army in 1914 and fought in the Battle of the Somme. His war ended in France three years later in 1917, when he was gassed with Mustard Gas and invalided back to England.  A stoic man and not one to complain, as soon as he was able, he rolled up his sleeves and got to work as the farm labourer he was to be all his working life.

He went on to marry and have six children, one of whom was my husband’s mother. They all lived in a tied cottage, Walter taking a loaf of bread, a hunk of cheese, and a flagon of cider every day for his lunch out in the fields.  If no cheese was available, he took a whole onion and ate it like an apple.   During the Second World War he served in the Home Guard.   He lived well into his eighties, but he never spoke of the horrors of the trenches, nor of his fallen brothers whose names are represented by a handful of ceramic poppies in London today.

Then I think of Albert Edward Matthews, a gritty Londoner, my husband’s father, who served as a Tank Sergeant in the 8th Royal Tank Regiment as a Desert Rat, fighting in El Alamein against Rommel’s Afrika Korps in 1942.  He travelled through Libya to Italy and into Germany, where his war ended in 1945.  He stayed in Germany until 1948 before returning home to England, marrying my husband’s mother.  It was known that although he rarely spoke of the war, his nightmares never left.

But one man in the Matthews’ family didn’t make it home: Stanley George Matthews, ‘Uncle Stan’, lies buried deep below the black, heavy waters off the coast of Greenland, brought down with HMS Hood, sunk on 24th May 1941 by the German battleship Bismarck. He was twenty-two.

Poppies in Norfolk (c) Sherri Matthews 2014

Norfolk Poppies
(c) Sherri Matthews 2014

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.

(From the poem The Fallen, Laurence Binyhn 1869-1943)

About Sherri Matthews

Sherri has been writing full time since 2011. Currently working on her memoir, 'Stranger in a White Dress', she has been published in a variety of national magazines, websites and three anthologies. Sherri raised her three, now adult children, in California for twenty years and today, lives in England’s West Country with her hubby, Aspie youngest, two cats, a grumpy bunny and a family of Chinese Button Quails. She keeps out of mischief blogging, gardening, walking by the sea and snapping endless photographs. Her garden robin muse vists regularly.
This entry was posted in Current Affairs, Family Memoirs, HIstory and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

107 Responses to We Will Remember Them

  1. mihrank says:

    London one of the most prestigious countries – this blog is very rich with deep information and presentation!

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  2. I Was just wishing to see a photo of the poppies installation. Thanks for granting my wish, dear.
    I’m right now reading the book, “No Greater Glory ” about the sinking of the Dorcester off the coast of Greenland. It’s too easy to forget not to take just being alive for granted. It is good to remember to be grateful.

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    • Sherri says:

      Oh I’m so glad, it’s a beautiful photo isn’t it Tracy? A friend shared it on Facebook and I thought it was so poignant. My only regret is that hubby and I didn’t get across to London in time to see this beautiful poppy display in person. They are going to start removing them tomorrow. I just watched the 11 o’clock service on the television, very powerful as always. I remember Veterans Day in the States, a holiday I think? I’ve not read the book, but I’ve heard of it. Powerful read I’m sure. Oh we do have so much for which to be grateful, every morning we wake up and every morning we remember all that we have been blessed with.

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  3. TanGental says:

    My brother and sister in law are there today so if they have a photo I’ll share it. A beutiful tribute Sherri. The madness of nations should not dilute our admiration for the men and women who have been killed or injured by wars not of their making or wanting.

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    • Sherri says:

      Oh Geoff, how wonderful, I would love to see their photos. I’ve just read your very interesting comment about the Bouncing Bomb too, so will go to that next. The madness of nations indeed…and getting madder every day it seems. At times like this I am honoured to remember such men from my hubby’s family, representative of their generations (and not forgetting the women left behind and their great sacrifices and losses too) willing to sacrifice so much for something they didn’t ask for nor want. A very poignant day indeed.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Thank you for photo, especially today. I love the display of poppies. A poignant reminder of the blood spilled before us. One hundred years and we still haven’t learned. We must never forget, but we must also get better and do away with wars.

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  5. Rachel M says:

    I love your photo of the poppies. The first one is good too but I like yours better. I love poppies.

    Both my grandfathers fought in the second world war and my great uncle died at Gallipoli.

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  6. TBM says:

    A wonderful tribute, Sherri. I wish we would learn from the past, but we seem too stubborn. It’s such a shame that so many young men and women have to go to war. Such a waste and even the survivors are never the same.

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    • Sherri says:

      Thank you TB. Yes, such a waste…by remembering what these men and women sacrificed and the reasons why perhaps we can at last find a way to put a stop to it once and for all, but with things the way they are today, this seems less and less likely…for a very long time to come..

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  7. Denise says:

    Two lovely contrasting pictures of poppies and I’m sad to hear about Stanley. I hate the thought of dying alone in the cold, dark waters 😦 So much sacrifice…

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    • Sherri says:

      I know…it is so, so sad Denise. I hate to think of it too…when I researched hubby’s uncle Stan, I found out that he had received a letter from his ailing mother (hubby’s paternal grandmother) who had lost her husband to illness and needed her son home, but although he was so concerned to return to her, he was never given the chance. Utterly heart breaking. If you click on the link on his name above, you’ll see a photograph of him. I see the same sense of humour in his eyes that M has…a definite family likeness that struck me to the core when I first looked at it. Brought it all home in an even more powerful way…

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  8. Thank you for this beautiful post, Sherri. When I saw the poppy commemoration on the new last week, I thought of you and Jenny. I hope you get the opportunity to see it in person. I’m sure it’s magnificent. I’m sorry to hear about your Uncle Stan…so young.

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    • Sherri says:

      Ahh…thank you Jill. Yes, I read Jenny’s wonderful post earlier today and saw that she was able to see the ceramic poppies in person. Thanks to her, I now know that it seems the poppies will remain until the end of the month, giving M and I a chance to visit hopefully. Can’t be missed. Uncle Stan was a mere boy. He was M’s uncle on his father’s side and never got the chance to return home to his ailing mother. So, so sad…if you click on the link above on his name you will see his photograph. He has a look about him that reminds me so much of M, the same mischievous smile and look about the eyes. Family resemblance can be a powerful thing. Especially at times such as these… xo

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  9. bulldog says:

    Yep it is now that we remember them that fell for us and along side us…

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  10. Steve Rebus says:

    Wow, thanks Sherri for sharing some of your family history. What amazing men! So blessed to hear about them through your usual eloquent words! God bless you. 🙂

    Like

  11. cardamone5 says:

    I remember poppies from my time in London. A lovely tribute, yours and the poppies. Bless them all, for they gave more than life to ensure freedom and decency in this world.

    Love,
    E

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  12. Beautiful post. Thanks for sharing this (and your history and photo). I didn’t know they were taking this down tomorrow. Any idea why? I wonder if it’s so people can get their poppy. (I think they sold most of the poppy sculptures.) Or is there a symbolic reason for removing them tomorrow?

    Also, love the excerpt from Binyhn’s poem.

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    • Sherri says:

      Thank you Sarah, it’s my privilege to share this little piece of history from my husband’s family. I don’t think there is any particular meaning about the removal of the poppies, but I found out today that it looks as if they will now remain until the end of the month so that more people will be able to visit them. I do hope so, as hubby and I will do our best to get across to London if so… Binyhn’s poem makes me cry, every time…

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  13. I saw this on the world news the other night. It really brings home how many lives were lost in that one war and this is a display is only for the British. It makes me want to cry.

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    • Sherri says:

      It is horrifying isn’t it Donna, when presented in this way in pure numbers, the vastness of it all and all the men and women worldwide who sacrificed so much. I’ve been tearful all day with all the commemoration services taking place on the television.

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  14. Imelda says:

    This is a bittersweet tribute and remembrance, Sherri. God bless the brave men and women who serve their country.

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  15. jennypellett says:

    Great minds, eh Sherri! Your personal story of Walter and Stanley makes today all the more poignant. We must try to get as much information from those who are left (WW2 veterans) so that these two massive conflicts are never forgotten.

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    • Sherri says:

      Yes Jenny, great minds! Loved your post, thank you so much for your information about the poppies, I’m desperate to get there. Was so hoping to make it before as you did. Loved your photo and that song…I’ve been tearful all day. We must, you are right. M’s regret is that he didn’t talk more to his father about the war (he was just a boy when his grandfather died). We must never forget, never….

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  16. One of those ceramic poppies is in memory of my granny’s brother, Roger, who was an officer killed on the front in the First World War (aged 18). He went out to France straight from his Grammar School, after being awarded the prize for the highest achieving pupil. I wonder what he would have done with his life if he’d lived.

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    • Sherri says:

      It’s so incredibly poignant reading personal stories such as yours about your great-uncle Roger. When hubby’s grandfather left for France, he signed up with a handful of young men from his Dorset village but only a few returned. So many villages decimated by the horrendous loss of young life. When I look at Uncle Stan’s photograph, finding him on a roll of the lost on HMS Hood, I think just the same as you about your granny’s brother. So sad.

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      • Have you been following “The Village” on television? Based on the memoirs of one young man who lost his older brother in the World War One, I think it shows so accurately the before and after effects of the war on one village. A brilliant on-going series, indeed. Would recommend watching it from the beginning of Series 1, if you’ve missed it.

        Like

      • Sherri says:

        We watched the first series and found it very powerful but haven’t followed the second one. Not sure why, we kept missing it and I forgot to record it. Many thanks for the reminder, will definitely catch up with it.

        Like

  17. Lisa Reiter says:

    A wonderful and poignant post Sherri. Always a very moving day, your personal story as well as others only hits the losses home further. This memorial is simply amazing and it is a shame it has to come down quite so soon, as many more of us might have been able to see it. Lxx

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    • Sherri says:

      Thank you Lisa. Ahh..such a moving day yesterday with all the commemorative services going on, this was just a small tribute to so many who tragically lost their lives. I have since heard that the memorial will stay up until the end of the month in which case we will do our best to see it. Hope you do too! It must be incredible. xx

      Like

  18. Sherri such a beautiful tribute to those you have lost and loved as did many. On this day I try to be thankful for all those who fought in wars for the better of our countries. Thank you, you actually made it more personal with these amazing true stories.

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    • Sherri says:

      Thank you Kath, I wanted to show my respect for these men of my husband’s family and also, like you, for all those who are fighting today. Huge sacrifices paid.

      Like

  19. I’ve been following the pics of this wonderful tribute to the fallen heroes. There are a good few poppies there, representing brave members of my family who because of war, I was never destined to meet. It’s a sad, but proud day for many people. Lovely post and poppy pic, Sherri. 🙂 xx

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    • Sherri says:

      Ahh…thank you Sylvia. It is both sad and proud, very much so, especially for those like you and hubby, knowing you have family members represented in that sea of poppies in London but who you never met because of their very great sacrifice xx

      Liked by 1 person

  20. PBS had a brief segment on the ceramic poppies. Yours is a full-hearted account with many touching details, Sherri.

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  21. We had our minutes silence yesterday as we remembered the young lads who went to war. Your post and my brothers where he tells of my great grandfather’s brother losing all his sons, one in Messines and one at Passchendaele, really bring home the personal cost of war. Lovely tribute post.

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    • Sherri says:

      Thank you Irene. Oh that really does bring home the personal cost of war to your family, so tragic and so sorry for your family’s very great loss. My mother reminded me also of my great grandmother’s sister who lost both her fiances to the Great War and remained a spinster to her dying day at the age of 92. The cost spread far and wide. I found the commemorative services yesterday particularly moving in the two minute’s silence. Quite profound wasn’t it?

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  22. Sherri, this artwork is so moving. I had forgotten that the poppy is a symbol of Armistice Day. I would love to be there and see the sea of red. Lovely. My father and grandfather served in WWII and on my mother’s side, my grandmother from Norway was engaged to a man who was killed in WWI. It is only right we should think of the poor soldiers. And for you in England, only right we should remember how much bombing took place. On your soil.

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    • Sherri says:

      Yes Hollis, so important to remember these things. This sea of poppies is incredible, I can only hope we get a chance to see it before they take it down. Poppies are worn here every year to commemorate Armistice Day (called Veteran’s Day as I remember it in the States?) and on the nearest Sunday, we have Remembrance Day. As you say, it is only right that we must always remember the sacrifices paid by the fallen. You have brave men in your family Hollis but how tragic for your grandmother. My great-grandmother’s sister lost two fiances to WWI and died a spinster at the age of 92. The cost of war spreads far and wide doesn’t it?

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      • Yes it does. And it is called Veteran’s Day here. But since the wars were not fought on our land, it was not until 9/11, that we experienced even a small bit of what you did in Europe!

        Liked by 1 person

      • Sherri says:

        Yes…this is painfully true. We took a battering. My grandparents had a bomb shelter at the bottom of their garden. Oh the stories my mother can tell of the war. She was 3 when it broke out and 9 when it ended. I’m so glad she is writing about it for our family 🙂

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  23. Thank you so much for sharing this beautiful post. It’s a beautiful sight and one that would be amazing to see in person.

    What honorable men in your husband’s family! Very sad about Uncle Stan, so young.

    I have spend all day watching old war movies today with Mr. B. It never gets old and each year I appreciate our servicemen and women more and more. 🙂

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    • Sherri says:

      I grew up watching those old war movies Maria and they certainly remind us to be so thankful. Hubby and I are hoping to go and see the poppies as I’ve since found out that they will remain for longer than first thought so that more people can visit. I couldn’t hold back the tears yesterday watching the commemorative services on television and during the two minute silence…incredibly moving.

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  24. Such a beautiful, striking tribute to veterans – that field of poppies speaks to my heart. It was also touching to read the stories of wartime sacrifice within your family.

    I went to the Remembrance Day service at the Cenotaph here in London (Canada) this morning, and was so moved. As I stood there in the uncharacteristically warm November sunshine, with the breeze sending golden leaves skittering, veterans marched, the bagpipes and brass bands played, and the service of remembrance unfolded. I was overcome with memories of the stories my Belgian parents told me of the war, especially my mother who was from Flanders were the experience was harrowing. My parents are gone now, and it is my turn to keep those stories alive for my children and grandchildre

    I spent some time this afternoon with my eldest granddaughter after her school day at junior kindergarten, and she was eager to tell me all about the soldiers who, in her words, fought to keep Canada and the children safe. Only four. and she already understands and is building her own remembrances.

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    • Sherri says:

      What a touching comment Marlene, thank you so much for sharing some of your family’s history with me. I am deeply moved by it. I can well imagine how emotional it must have been for you yesterday, thinking of your parents and the stories your mother would tell of her war years in Flanders. What a moving, poignant and powerful Remembrance Day service. I could not hold back the tears during the two-minute silence yesterday. How wonderful that you now get to share these stories with your own family and that your granddaughter,, so young, is already understanding how important it is to remember and be thankful for our military. A beautiful legacy for you and your family Marlene, so beautiful…

      Liked by 1 person

  25. restlessjo says:

    That poem always puts a lump in the throat, Sherri. Hasn’t it been a wonderfully poignant remembrance this year? The Tower poppies are phenomenal. I would so love to have seen them.
    I just popped in to see how you are doing this week, and deliver another hug. 🙂

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    • Sherri says:

      Oh Jo, me too. So poignant. I couldn’t stop the tears yesterday watching all the commemorative services and during the two minute silence. I hear the poppies are going to stay up for longer than first planned so more people can see them, I am hoping hubby and I get the chance to get there if so. Maybe you can too?
      Ahh…bless you Jo, what a sweetheart you are, you really warm my heart with your thoughtfulness. Your hug today helped more than you know…thank you 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  26. Pat says:

    Very touching, Sherri, and gives us moments to pause and reflect. So much sacrifice and lives forever changed down through the years.

    There’s still hope as long as our hearts are touched when we remember in ways like this. Thank you for sharing your personal accounts on how your family was affected.

    Like

  27. Tom Merriman says:

    Very nice, Sherri, and yes, we must never forget.

    Like

  28. Charli Mills says:

    Such a beautiful, poignant post. The poppies artwork is dramatically visual, yet intimately personal in representing each fallen soldier of WWI. Unbelievable, the numbers of the dead from that war. How wonderful to honor your husband’s family. Uncle Stan’s story really sticks with me because I grew up listening to Johnny Horton (my crazy “rides” around the living room coffee table sent me on many battles and adventures). Here’s that song in honor of Uncle Stan and all who perished on the Hood:

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    • Sherri says:

      Oh Charli, just getting back here after a couple of crazy days and I am actually crying reading your comment and listening to this song…and thinking of your crazy ‘rides’ while listening to it. What a deep connection from across the shining sea…All I can say is thank you so much for this, I can’t wait to show hubby… ❤

      Like

  29. I missed your post on Armistice Day, Sherri, also called Veterans Day in the US and Remembrance Day in Canada and probably in other contries as well. As a kid in France I remember well that day. We had no school and stood in front of the monument dedicated to the men who died during WWI and WWII. Later the tribute has been extended to the men and women who serve for France. But originally it only marked the end of WWI. I like the poppy as a symbol of the event. Canadians do the same. See you soon, Sherri.

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    • Sherri says:

      As in our villages and towns here Evelyne, I was moved by all the memorials we came across in your rural France during our holidays there. I remember Veterans Day as a holiday in the States. How respectful to remember the fallen as you did in France. No day off for us on Armistice Day, which as with France, originally marked the end of WWI but Remembrance Day was introduced at the end of WWII to honour all the fallen in all wars since and is always held on the nearest Sunday. But it is always on November 11 at the 11th hour that a two minute silence is held. Very, very poignant and especially this year. Thank you Evelyne, I always look forward to seeing you soon 🙂

      Like

  30. Marie Keates says:

    I’m sorry I never got to see the poppies in London for myself. It I’m glad so many people remember. Their sacrifice should never be forgotten.

    Like

    • Sherri says:

      Yes, it must be an amazing and powerful sight. As the last of the generation who remember the fighting slip away, it is up to us to keep the memory alive for future generations. A poignant and moving remembrance.

      Like

  31. Bitter sweet, indeed. I love the poppy photos.

    Like

  32. Yolanda M. says:

    Thank you for sharing Walter and Stanley’s stories, Sherri. I think the whole world is moved by London’s display. Very moving. I got to chat to a lot of WWII vets as part of my job (sadly their numbers have dwindled to a few now) and while most of them refused to talk of their experiences I did get to hear some incredible stories – what a privilege that was!

    Like

    • Sherri says:

      Yes, I remember you writing about that recently Yolanda, such a privilege indeed and thank you for reading here too I am privileged and honoured to be able to share the stories of these men, what they must have carried with them all their lives, and to remember Uncle Stan who lives on in the memories of his family. We are hoping to get to see the poppy display in London as we’ve heard it is going to be up for longer. I will certainly be taking a lot of photos for posterity if so!

      Liked by 1 person

  33. Simply beautiful Sherri, I learn so much from you my friend. I loved the poppies & I love the poem. Thank you for touching and moving post. ❤

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  34. Beautiful tribute, Sherri. May war one day become a very distant memory.

    Like

  35. Ste J says:

    As ever you made me feel so much emotion with your evocative words, I find this wonderful ans deeply moving. Brilliant.

    Like

  36. Seyi sandra says:

    I had goose pimples just reading through this. It’s very deep and powerful Sherri. I just don’t know what to write, just grateful that millions of young men died to make our world a better place!

    Like

  37. Thanks for sharing your family stories Sherri, when we read stories of real people I think it makes us not only appreciate their sacrifices more but in a more personal way.

    Like

  38. Norah says:

    This is a very moving post, Sherri, written with deep emotion and evoking a sense of poignancy. Thank you for sharing the stories from your husband’s family. My Dad too served in the Second World War and struggled to talk about it, though in his later years he wrote some recollections in very moving stories and poems. I was fortunate to see the red poppies when I visited London. It was truly awesome. That so many people’s lives were lost is incredible. It is so important to have the two minutes silence to reflect on such tragic events and losses. May they never be repeated. Your post contributes to developing an understanding of that. Thank you for sharing it and keeping the flame alive for those who can no longer. May they rest in peace. And may we live in peace.

    Like

    • Sherri says:

      Thank you Norah, I am honoured to share the stories of these men in my husband’s family, greatly humbled by their very great sacrifice and that of solders everywhere, then and now. Oh how wonderful that you got to see the poppies, I do hope that hubby and I manage to get there now that they are going to remain for a while longer. Witnessing such a vast sea of ‘sea of red’ in this way, knowing that each and every poppy represents one of the fallen from WWI is almost too much to register isn’t it? As I took part in the two-minute silence on Tuesday, watching the commemoration service at the Tower of London on my TV in my living room, I, like everyone else taking part, was overcome with deep emotion and gratitude for what these men sacrificed for us, and for the soldiers, men and women, who are fighting on today. War is a terrible thing and how we long for world peace but until then, we certainly are honoured to remember those who died for us in such a way. How wonderful that your dad was eventually able to write down some of his recollections, they must make for some very powerful reading. Thank you again Norah for your poignant words, may we live in peace indeed.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Norah says:

        Oh I do hope you get to see the poppies. It is an amazing and rather overwhelming sight, each poppy recognising a life lost, but only hinting at the number of lives touched. I agree with you about gratitude for their sacrifice, the enormity of which is difficult to comprehend. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  39. My thoughts and prayers to our fallen heroes and their families. They sacrificed so much, offered their lives to protect and serve their country and countrymen. I pray for Walter, Albert and Stanley, their lives and story touches our heart and will always be grateful for what they had done for others. Forever they will remembered. The flowers both beautiful and heart-warming. It help us pause, look back and reflect on the price others have to give so we can enjoy our freedom and to enjoy peace. Thanks for sharing your family’s story my friend. Full of gratitude, appreciation, love , thoughtfulness. Thank you. God bless you and your family always.

    Like

    • Sherri says:

      My dear friend, and I thank you for your heart of gratitude for all the fallen, heroes who died for us and gave the ultimate sacrifice that we today can live in freedom. Bless you for remembering these men from my husband’s family. I didn’t know them, and of course Uncle Stan died two decades before my husband was even born, but I hope that by sharing his story here, he will not be forgotten and will always be remembered and honoured, that his short life wasn’t for nothing. It just makes me weep at the thought of it. I found the two-minute silence particularly moving on Tuesday, and when you look at that sea of poppies, knowing that each one, every 888,246 of them, represents one British or Colonial man who died in WWI alone. It is incredibly emotive. I am privileged to share these stories here and deeply humbled by your gentle words and heart. God bless you and your family too, now and always.

      Like

  40. reocochran says:

    I thought I had written a thought down here, so sorry I must have either not pushed ‘post comment’ or got interrupted somehow at the library. This was a very memorable post, you helped me to know so many more details about this day. I enjoyed the poppies floating in the water, but deeply saddened by the high number of deaths they represented. This was a great place to go, a somber occasion, but the artwork certainly must have lifted your spirits, as the lovely glass/ceramic poppies did for me, today. I apologize for this belated comment…

    Like

    • Sherri says:

      Dear Robin, you are so kind and I am just so grateful that you would take the time to share such moving and powerful words with me. It is my honour to share the stories of these men here, who represent all the many hundreds of thousands and more besides who have lost their lives, suffered terrible, life-long effects of the damage caused by war injuries, both physical and mental, and of the humble way that this poppy display in London represents each and every soldier who fell in WWI. Bless you, no need to apologise for anything…our remembrance is timeless.

      Like

  41. prior says:

    wonderful post – and here is a heart in honor of uncle stan ❤ – and then some hearts for all of those whop ❤ ❤ ❤

    also I love how you gave us some real poppies at the end – by the roadside like that – nice wrap up !

    Like

  42. Wow, Sherri – what a touching, poignant reminder of what Armistice Day is all about. And that artwork is stunning – thanks for sharing with those of us on the other side of the pond!

    Like

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