We are celebrating the lives and sacrifices made by the men who served in the Hampshire Regiment during World War one, and their families and friends, who were equally as touched by the war as those serving. The ones left behind came to wave them off, tried to keep up morale with cheery news from home and by sending parcels of treats, and campaigned ceaslessly for better conditions, medical care, support for injured soldiers, and then for memorials once peace had been declared.
We remember, and give grateful thanks for all of these thousands and thousands of men, women and children affected by the war. Over 1 million memorial plaques were issued by the Goverment for those British, Empire and Commonwealth soldiers who lost their lives. Over 1 million lives cut short, and many many more than 1 million affected by the loss of fathers, sons, uncles and friends in some of the most inhospitable fighting conditions ever seen. Men and horses simply drowned; in mud on the Western front, during beach landings and river crossings in the Dardanelles, and on transport and hospital ships all around the seas. Others were shot, gassed, shelled and mined, while thousands more died from diseases such as malaria, dysentry, and small pox.
In this year, 100 years since the Armistice of 11th November 1918 when the guns fell silent, it is more important than ever to remember their lives, and all those who lost their lives in later years, and other wars. They were mostly men, mostly young, and mostly not professional soldiers. They either answered the call and volunteered or were forced into it through conscription. They felt they had no choice but to fight for freedom and what they thought was fair and just. These men were just ordinary men, with hopes, dreams, lives and loves. They lived through unimaginable horrors and deprivations, and many thousands more were scarred survivors.
As Britain becomes covered in a wave of poppies, we remember them. As the names on memorials throughout the land are read, and we fall silent to the bugle’s notes, we remember them. And with each new year, and generation of children, we teach them the same message, of thanks and praise. They died for our freedoms. We shall never forget.
With proud thanksgiving, a mother for her children,
England mourns for her dead across the sea.
Flesh of her flesh they were, spirit of her spirit,
Fallen in the cause of the free.
Solemn the drums thrill: Death august and royal
Sings sorrow up into immortal spheres.
There is music in the midst of desolation
And a glory that shines upon our tears.
They went with songs to the battle, they were young,
Straight of limb, true of eye, steady and aglow.
They were staunch to the end against odds uncounted,
They fell with their faces to the foe.
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.
They mingle not with their laughing comrades again;
They sit no more at familiar tables of home;
They have no lot in our labour of the day-time;
They sleep beyond England’s foam.
But where our desires are and our hopes profound,
Felt as a well-spring that is hidden from sight,
To the innermost heart of their own land they are known
As the stars are known to the Night;
As the stars that shall be bright when we are dust,
Moving in marches upon the heavenly plain,
As the stars that are starry in the time of our darkness,
To the end, to the end, they remain.
For the Fallen, by Robert Laurence Binyon. 1914.