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Remembrance and respect


Time for an update: I still use film, though. Not vast quantities, but I have a darkroom, and I'm not afraid to use it.

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Remembrance and respect

11 Nov 2020 10:25AM   Views : 484 Unique : 358


Remembrance Day, though usually marked on a Sunday, was originally a two-minute pause at the eleventh hour on the eleventh day of the eleventh month, marking the end of World War One. So it’s fitting to think about what it is and what it means today, 102 years after the end of ‘the war to end all wars’ – a great pity that it didn’t, and actually laid foundations for the Second World War 25 years later.

So it’s a time to honour those who have died for their country, and also those who fought for it. I want to encourage you to think of people in other countries who also fought and died, and for families who lost sons and daughters. Often, victory is seen as a British achievement, and we forget, for instance, the millions of Russians who died defeating Hitler. And war is, I understand, never glorious when you’re there.

How can we show our respect in pictures? My friend Moira (mrswoollybill) records the ceremonies and people in her home town, quietly and carefully. Many people construct careful images around poppies: poppies flourish in soil disturbed by artillery shells and manured with blood, and have become a symbol of remembrance.


I offer you some images from the National Memorial Arboretum, and from one local road where the residents decorated their houses, and marked the places where soldiers had come from. Few houses in the street had no figure, no sheet of paper marking where a serviceman had lived.

I want to extend the thought a little further. We can respect survivors and current servicepeople by the way that we treat them. There will be grief on show, tears for friends and relatives lost, and we should not trespass on this with intrusive pictures. A record, though, is important: those who do not learn the lessons of history are doomed to repeat them. And there must also be compassion: a photojournalist I know took the shot of a man attending the first Remembrance ceremony since his service (I think, in the Falklands): and then stepped forward to hug him.

One other thing: the next time someone suggests to you that a country should send in the troops, pause. A feature of senior politicians who have served in the military is that they do not, on the whole, resort to military action lightly.


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dudler Avatar
dudler Plus
20 2.2k 2063 England
11 Nov 2020 10:28AM
The lead image is from the Shot at Dawn Memorial - dedicated to the British men who were executed by their own side - often because they had shell shock, now known as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. It is only in the current century that they have been officially pardoned. Many were teenagers, some having lied about their age to enlist.
viscostatic Avatar
viscostatic 17 50 11 United Kingdom
11 Nov 2020 11:14AM
Tragic, so tragic that afflictions of serving men who had suffered so much were not understood. Are we any better at supporting our veterans now? I sometimes wonder.
woolybill1 Avatar
woolybill1 Plus
17 39 79 United Kingdom
11 Nov 2020 11:43AM
A thoughtful and well-balanced piece, John - thank you.

You make a good point about remembering what I might refer to as 'The Other Side'; it is a matter that both Moira and I take much interest in. Among our still-expanding library of military history books, largely but far from exclusively about the Great War, there is relatively little that gives the Other Side any say; they are and remain The Enemy. Fortunately this attitude is changing for the better, but excruciatingly slowly - too slowly.

Long after Moira and I began - together - to look more deeply into the Great War - I chanced on a YouTube clip from a series called simply The Great War that followed the entire conflict week by week, the weekly ten-minute slot supplemented by special programmes on personalities, tactics, weapons, notable events. Of course it isn't a British production: fronted by an American who lives in Sweden, the episodes recorded in a German studio with what appears to be an international team, it goes into literally everything from all sides. The presenter may be a bit brash, but the programmes leave you on the edge of your seat.
Of course it is crowd-funded, so the quality of presentation improves as the series progresses. By the time they get to The Second World War (via the Between the Wars series that we haven't yet looked at) it's much more sophisticated.
I could go on and on (and frequently do) - - - but the whole point is that it is inclusive. Most of the 30 WW2 episodes that we've seen so far, the era of the 'Phoney War', deal with the Sino-Japanese conflict and the Finno-Soviet war - the Winter War - that the Finns so nearly won.

Summo summarum: All war is wrong, all sides suffer, no side wins (but the poor always lose), extreme nationalism is evil because 'the Other Side' is always at fault. We are as far from repairing 'the system' in 2020 as our forebears were in 1914 and 1939.
dudler Avatar
dudler Plus
20 2.2k 2063 England
11 Nov 2020 11:47AM
Thank you both, particularly Bill for a thorough and thoughtful comment..

May they all rest in peace.
James124 Avatar
James124 Plus
8 109 64 Portugal
11 Nov 2020 11:57AM
Surely we must also remember those who were on 'the other side' mostly ordinary men and boys who were conscripted by their rulers, not all were gung-ho nationalistic psychopaths as so often depicted, and of course the Indian Army soldiers who were in Italy and Africans sent to Burma. (Perhaps we should all read "All Quiet on the Western Front " and some of Heinrich Böll's short stories for a different perspective.)
dudler Avatar
dudler Plus
20 2.2k 2063 England
11 Nov 2020 2:23PM
James, I had meant to hint at that, at least. Every soldier killed was some mother's son, and that is equally true of all nationalities, at all times.

Thank you for picking that up. Ephotozine is an international community, and my friends here cross all manner of boundaries. I see that as a model for life and politics: a chance to honour the dead by honouring the living.
philtaylorphoto Avatar
philtaylorphoto 22 334 2
28 Nov 2020 7:44PM
Ooh, a bit controversial, but I feel that sometimes nowadays there can be an element of 'clapping for the NHS' creeping in with some people. My father served during WW2, read war history books compulsively but never attended any ceremonies. I think that as we have become more removed from the events, and generations there has almost become a competitive crafting element creeping in.

Having photographed Remembrance Day over many years, it's been interesting to see the changes. Increasingly it's an odd mix of honest reflectio, my country right or wrong, a bit of 'statue protector' and some craft work for 5 year olds to make poppies from yoghurt pots.

Thinking of a few on my portfolio, I have grieving relatives, crying old veterans, a distressed looking former sailor, a Jewish man with his grandson, who fled Europe, but returned via Normandy. Then blended with that is the nursery school teachers who demanded that I took a picture of their young charges made up as poppies. Somehow that seemed flippant, cheap.
dudler Avatar
dudler Plus
20 2.2k 2063 England
28 Nov 2020 9:56PM
Phil, that does sound flip, if not flippant...

The big thing about 'Poppy Road' for me was that it brought home to me how closely war pressed on that little community. It's like the names on walls at the National Memorial Arboretum: there are always more, and it's oppressive.

As it should be: war is oppressive, an affront to human dignity, Very occasionally necessary, but so often avoidable if people will accord others dignity, and not stand on their own pride. Pride is one of the seven deadly sins for a good reason...

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