Friday, November 13, 2009

Never too late to remember



Yes, it's two days since Remembrance Day, so the link is even more strained than usual, but we can overlook that.

It's interesting that not only has Anzac Day got bigger and bigger over the last 10 years or so, but now Remembrance Day is also an annual feature in the news here.

Visiting Gallipoli has become so mainstream that a new road put in to deal with the visitors destroyed part of what they go to see; but overall it's a heartening phenomenon and good to see.

I've visited a number of war cemeteries, the most impressive because of their size the ones in Normandy, like the American one above, on the cliff above Omaha Beach; and the less austere British one at Bayeux where there are roses by the crosses; and the understated German one outside the town behind a high hedge where low black crosses are grouped on the grass surrounding a huge mound. Then there's the one at Oxford, where my uncle is buried, killed on a training flight when his wings iced up - it was a long way to come from Dunedin to die in England's friendly fields. The youngest son, it was a terrible blow for the family; his medal and the letter from the king were framed and hung over my grandmother's bed.

And then there's the lovely peaceful one in near Tiendanite in New Caledonia - a NZ one, this, with the plaques set into the grass in a long curve leading to the memorial against a backdrop of the wild mountains.

In Australia the one at Adelaide River is unique in my experience for having personal messages included on the brass plaques - "He was my all. Mother" - which makes them even more moving; and in the National War Memorial at Canberra the long, long wall of names has poppies stuck under the edges where people have come on a pilgrimage.

What they all have in common is that they are lovingly cared-for: neat, clean, pretty and peaceful. They are places of respect, honour and remembrance, and always worth visiting.

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