curiouswombat: (Poppies)
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posted by [personal profile] curiouswombat at 03:23pm on 11/11/2012 under ,
Today, like most churches in The British Isles (those in Eire possibly being an exception), we held a special service of Remembrance for all those who have died in wars, both in the last century and this one, both servicemen and women and those who had no choice because war came to them.

As we do every year, we read out the names of those members of our congregation killed in the two World Wars, and were quietly grateful that our congregation has lost no-one to war since.

As we did this, the children 'planted' the poppies we made last week into the 'cornfield' that they also made last week - one for each of those named on our memorial, one for servicemen who have died since, one for servicemen who are still serving, and one for the others, men, women and children, caught up in conflict.

poppies in a cornfield

Then I spoke for a few minutes, particularly aimed at the children and young people.

I have put what I said under a cut, for length.

I am going to tell you about a young man called Walter who was born on 1st August.

(Anyone here born on that day? Or in August?)

He was christened on 31st August in Castletown – I wonder if his mum and dad had a long family christening robe?

His family moved to Douglas. They lived in Grosvenor Road. They started to come to St Andrews Church, and Walter came to Sunday School.

Is Anyone here 15? Nearly 15? Well something very big happened only 3 days after Walter's 15th birthday.

You see Walter was born on 1st August 1899 and so what happened was the outbreak of War on August 4th 1914.

His everyday life probably didn’t change much – but there would have been much more exciting stories in the Courier and the Examiner than there had been before! Then the stories became about Manxmen who had been injured, or had died - perhaps he knew some of them, or their brothers and sisters.

By the time he was 16 or 17 things would have been closer to home – Walter’s big brother Horace had joined the army and would be away fighting in France, so had his cousin Eddie.

Walter joined the army, too – as soon as he could – so when he was 18. You went to train first – but not for very long… So by the time he was 18½ he was fighting in the trenches of the First World War. You’ve all seen the pictures…

Walter had his 19th birthday whilst he was in France – I don’t know if he spent it in a trench, or if he was behind the lines and managed to spend it in somewhere a bit more comfortable. I hope it was somewhere dry, and that, perhaps, he got a present or two from home.

But one thing I do know… that was his last birthday ever – because on 23rd August 1918 Walter Carr Cannell was killed in what was called the 100 day offensive.

He never came back to Grosvenor Rd, to church…

But every year we remember him, and the others – because his name is there on our War Memorial.

365 week 36 Sunday

And I just want you to remember that all those people were ordinary people, like us – and they didn’t go to fight because they liked the idea – they did it because they thought it was right. It might have been right – but it must have been horrible almost all the time – and imagine how his Mum and Dad felt, when they got the letter to say Walter was dead.

So we must remember them to help us remember that war is almost never the answer…

Later we were talking about the Poppy Appeal, which raises money for ex-servicemen. Last year they raised £38m. One of the teenagers pointed out that that would be enough to buy 'a pretty good football player'. It kind of puts our priorities into perspective, doesn't it?
Music:: Loreena McKennitt - Skellig
Mood:: 'sombre' sombre
location: Isle-of-Man
There are 47 comments on this entry. (Reply.)
posted by [identity profile] at 03:38pm on 11/11/2012
Beautifully said.
posted by [identity profile] at 03:54pm on 11/11/2012
Thank you.
posted by [identity profile] at 04:06pm on 11/11/2012
Very nicely said. Very touching.
posted by [identity profile] at 04:33pm on 11/11/2012
Thank you - somehow focussing on one person makes it easier to understand than trying to imagine the sheer size of it all.

He just happens to be one of the ones on our memorial that we have been able to find quite a lot out about.
posted by [identity profile] at 04:28pm on 11/11/2012
What a sad story - but so often repeated across this land ... and a great way of reminding the kids of the horrors we are remembering today.

"We will remember them"
posted by [identity profile] at 04:38pm on 11/11/2012
We are fortunate that one of our congregation began to research the names - and I then began to help her. Walter Carr Cannell is one we know more about than others. His brother, Horace, survived; his cousin Eddie died a month after he did.

I hope that that tight focus actually helps to make all that black and white footage more real.
posted by [identity profile] at 04:31pm on 11/11/2012
Definitely a day for reflection.
posted by [identity profile] at 04:47pm on 11/11/2012
It is good that we continue to remember those who were lost - and try to prevent their numbers swelling.
posted by [identity profile] at 04:34pm on 11/11/2012
You did well; it's so difficult to pitch talking about war at just the right level for children. My two boys are just at that age where they happily charge about playing soldiers, talking about blowing the enemies in their imaginary games up, etc, all the time; and so I am glad if Remembrance Sunday gives them pause and causes them to realise, just a little, that this is no game.

I was particularly moved and pleased to hear, on the news just now, that the Taoiseach attended a Remembrance Day service in Enniskillen, for the first time ever. Given how many lives were lost or maimed attempting to bring peace to Northern Ireland, that is a hopeful moment, I think...
posted by [identity profile] at 04:50pm on 11/11/2012
I am glad if Remembrance Sunday gives them pause and causes them to realise, just a little, that this is no game.

Yes - absolutely. I think that at least the ten year olds and up 'got' it - and the little ones will remember 'planting' poppies.

And that is such good news about the Taoiseach - I hadn't seen it. Mind you all that was on the BBC news this morning was news about BBC news. And the Taoiseach attending the Enniskillen service is a good deal more important, I think.
posted by [identity profile] at 04:41pm on 11/11/2012
What a wonderful service.
posted by [identity profile] at 04:55pm on 11/11/2012
Thank you.

Our old minister felt it was not a service in which to involve the children. When he retired, leaving us pretty much to do our own thing(!), we decided that it should. The lay preacher who was to lead that first Family Remembrance Service was unsure - but said she would give it a try if those of us who work with the children had some ideas, at least.

It turned out to be the most moving service many of the adults had ever been too. And somehow, by involving the children each year since, the whole service has become more meaningful.
posted by [identity profile] at 04:50pm on 11/11/2012
The national WWI museum here in Kansas City has a display with a poppy for every single person who died in WWI. It's unbelievable. Well done, you!
posted by [identity profile] at 05:08pm on 11/11/2012
Thank you.

I can, actually, imagine all those poppies. At the Festival of Remembrance from the Royal Albert Hall, which I have watched on TV every year that I can remember, there is a part where they release a poppy petal for every service person killed in both World Wars and since.

They fall from the ceiling, in silence, onto all those gathered below. And they fall, and they fall; slowly they pile up on the floor, and catch in the hair, on the caps, on the shoulders, of those who stand below. And every year there are more petals.

You can see it here ( if you have never seen it. I'm guessing it is a very British thing.

ETA - and Gillo has also posted a video of it on her journal, here (
Edited Date: 2012-11-11 06:25 pm (UTC)
gillo: (Default)
posted by [personal profile] gillo at 05:24pm on 11/11/2012
Excellent talk. They were so very young. Dave's dad was 30 and the "old man" of his squadron.
posted by [identity profile] at 06:21pm on 11/11/2012
Thank you. One of the others on the 14-18 part of our memorial was 40 when he died in 1918. Old enough to be Walter Cannell's father, and doubtless that of almost everyone in his unit and yet even he doesn't seem that old to us now...
posted by [identity profile] at 06:30pm on 11/11/2012
It's the power of a single story, among so many, that your talk captures so well, for adults as well as the young. Thinking about war, you have to try to remind yourself that each of those names was a single story, not just the mass memory of 'millions dead', which depersonalises.

posted by [identity profile] at 06:56pm on 11/11/2012
Thank you, yes, I decided that it was the only way, in the end, to understand what it was really like; by identifying with a teenager or with his parents.
posted by [identity profile] at 07:24pm on 11/11/2012
What an absolutely lovely trandition (and wonderful story about Walter - brought a tear to my eye).

*nods* yes, priorities are indeed skewed. There was a report here after the election about the money spent on the campaigns. Each candidate spent well over a billion (count'em - billion!) dollars - mostly on nasty ads that everyone was so sick of by the actual election that you probably heard the cheer all the way over there. That wouldn't have wiped out the National Debt that everyone goes on about - but it certainly would have put a dent in it. Or funded any number of worthwhile programs that may end up being cut in a, perhaps futile, attempt to lower the debt.
Edited Date: 2012-11-11 07:33 pm (UTC)
posted by [identity profile] at 08:17pm on 11/11/2012
I had a big lump in my throat when I told his story, I must admit. It is simple, he was just a very ordinary lad, as far as we can tell - and yet his tragedy is as big as that of anyone more famous. And multiplied millions of times.

The total waste of money on political advertising is just... gah! How can they waste so much on so little? They should be forced, all politicians, to put as much into paying for the health service, or schools, or even road maintenance funds as they do on each advert - up front, before the ads are shown! And the same when clubs buy sportsmen's contracts, too!
posted by [identity profile] at 08:33pm on 11/11/2012
posted by [identity profile] at 08:07pm on 11/11/2012
Your children's homily gave me a serious lump in my throat.
posted by [identity profile] at 08:18pm on 11/11/2012
To be honest, it did to me as I read it, too.
ext_47048: (Poppy)
posted by [identity profile] at 08:21pm on 11/11/2012
The Remembrance services are always very moving. I always attend if I possibly can, and at least observe the two minutes silence if I'm working. At our village service members of the Rainbows, Beavers, Brownies, Cubs, Guides, Scouts and Explorer Scouts all take part, laying their flags on the altar before we all process to the War Memorial. This year there seemed to be more people than ever. I'm glad so many still remember.
posted by [identity profile] at 09:09pm on 11/11/2012
I used to like going to the service at the village war memorial, but since I began looking after the children I always have to be at church -I miss all the flags. We don't have any of the children's organisations attached to our church - so they all do church parade elsewhere - including some of ours, of course.

But there seemed to be a good turnout in the village - I was only just able to get through, to go to Church, before they shut the road - and there were already a good few people waiting.
posted by [identity profile] at 08:33pm on 11/11/2012
Well said. It must have been a beautiful service.
posted by [identity profile] at 09:10pm on 11/11/2012
Thank you. It was a lovely service - it actually works really well to have the children take part in it.
posted by [identity profile] at 08:52pm on 11/11/2012
Poor Walter. We don't read out names, but we sang a requiem mass (we always do) and Lead Kindly Light (, which is one of my favourites.
posted by [identity profile] at 09:13pm on 11/11/2012
This is the first church I've been to that reads out the names - but it is really very moving.

I like Lead Kindly Light. Would you believe that I~ can't remember all the hymns we sang this morning? That I've already forgotten? Meep!
posted by [identity profile] at 08:57pm on 11/11/2012
Very well said. I do think it's wonderful that so many of us who have never known war are still so moved by this annual remembrance. My small contribution is doing the poppy collection around the neighbours. No one ever hestitates to give.
posted by [identity profile] at 09:16pm on 11/11/2012
Thank you. Knowing just a little more about that one young man somehow makes the whole thing more real, even after all these years.

I always get through at least 3 poppies as I lose them so regularly. I am seriously thinking abut getting one of the 'posh' ones for next year!
posted by [identity profile] at 09:26pm on 11/11/2012
What a wonderful way to talk to the young people there. It really helps if they can relate to someone young like themselves.
That's a lovely service you had.
posted by [identity profile] at 10:39pm on 11/11/2012
Thank you - for a long time I thought 'it would be good to know more about the people on our memorial' - and then an older lady began to do the research on-line. I picked up and added to what she had done - and that lad, killed within a month of his 19th birthday, resonates somehow.

The children's poppy-filled cornfield was a very good focal point, too - yes, a good service.
posted by [identity profile] at 09:50pm on 11/11/2012
A very thoughtful way to explain a difficult subject to children. It's good that you have included the children in your Remembrance service. Well done.
posted by [identity profile] at 10:43pm on 11/11/2012
Thank you. It worked well. We included them into last year's service, too ( - and I think that the need to make it understandable to the children actually makes it all more real to the adults, too.
posted by [identity profile] at 10:18pm on 11/11/2012
What a lovely way to honour the fallen.
posted by [identity profile] at 10:43pm on 11/11/2012
Thank you - it really was a lovely service.
posted by [identity profile] at 03:07pm on 12/11/2012
Bringing the whole of war down to a single person truly allows people to feel the impact of war, even small children. I think your homily was quite lovely and very moving.

- Erulisse (one L)
posted by [identity profile] at 09:39pm on 12/11/2012
Thank you. I felt quite a lump in my throat when I read it out - I really could empathise with his mother - and I think it did have that effect for others, too.
posted by [identity profile] at 11:58pm on 12/11/2012
A lovely, sad speech. So often the human element is lost but you captured it beautifully.
posted by [identity profile] at 08:31am on 13/11/2012
Thank you. Knowing something about 'our dead' makes it more real, somehow.
posted by (anonymous) at 02:40am on 11/11/2013
I remember the poppies falling, they just keep coming and coming, so many of them.

I am just so thankful that my son made it back from Iraq in one piece, at least physically.

I think The Green Fields of France by the Celtic Tenors gives a good idea of the futility of war.

Thankful Huggs,
posted by [identity profile] at 09:50am on 11/11/2013
That fall of poppies always brings a lump to my throat, especially as they land on the young service men and women who are standing below.

I am glad, too, that your son made it back from Iraq in one piece. Glad, too, that we now recognise that going through war means they are not exactly the person they would have been if they had lived that period at home; it is bound to leave a mark just as every other experience does.

posted by [identity profile] at 04:37am on 11/11/2013
That left me with a lump in my throat. I think it is lovely that the children are included, and to talk about a young man from the village who lost his life in war makes it much more meaningful.
posted by [identity profile] at 09:54am on 11/11/2013
We have found that including the children, and so taking time to find things to make the service meaningful to them, has made it more meaningful for the adults, too. And it helps us to remember that they were young people, not just names.
posted by [identity profile] at 04:38am on 11/11/2013
PS. I love Loreena Mckennitt, and skellig is an appropriate choice,
posted by [identity profile] at 09:55am on 11/11/2013
Thank you.


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