Sunday, 11 November 2007

Remembrance Day

"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
Laurence Binyon

Today is Remembrance Day, at one time known as Armistice Day. The eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month marks the signing of the Armistice, to signal the end of World War One. At 11 am on 11 November 1918 the guns of the Western Front fell silent after more than four years continuous warfare.
Remembrance Day is a special day set aside to remember all those men and women who were killed during the two World Wars and other conflicts. Remembrance Sunday is held on the second Sunday in November, which is usually the Sunday nearest to 11 November. This year it is 11th November itself. Special services are held at war memorials and churches all over Britain. A national ceremony takes place at the cenotaph in Whitehall, London.

Last month, Her Majesty the Queen opened a new National Armed Forces Memorial to commemorate the deaths of the 16,000 British service men and women who have lost their lives in armed conflict, accidents, terrorism, peace-keeping or humanitarian efforts since the end of the Second World War. Situated in the Memorial Arboretum in Staffordshire it is a massive construction of Portland stone. It was designed by Liam O’Connor. The giant 100 metre circle which is its basis is a 6 metre high grassy mound in acres of quiet woodland in Staffordshire. One the mound a circle of 43 metre curved walls and two straight walls enclose the bronzes by Ian Rank-Broadley, At exactly 11am on November 11 - just as the country falls silent - a carefully-placed slit in one wall will allow a beam of sunlight to shine across a central plaque.

The list of the fallen currently ends with the crew of the Nimrod killed over Afghanistan in 2006. The names of more than 80 Service Personnel killed since then will be engraved on the memorial in 2008. Names will continue to be added in this way for future years.

The courage and sacrifice of the family and friends of personnel who have lost their lives serving their country is also remembered for the first time, with a centrepiece of evocative bronze sculptures.

The number of names already on it is terrible but even more awesome is the amount of blank stone awaiting new names. Not a year has gone by since the end of the Second World War without some loss of British service personnel. Let us hope the first year is not too far away.

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