Saturday, 20 October 2018

We remember World War I

Sweet peace, where dost thou dwell?

Every year, on November 11th, we remember.

This year we remember the blood spilled one hundred years ago on the battlefields of the First World War.

We remember those battlefields.

We remember the poppies whose roots are in man's veins
drop, and are ever dropping

We remember that in Flanders fields the poppies blow  . . .

 . . . between the crosses row on row

Lijssenthoek Military Cemetery, Belgium, my photo

This year we remember November 11, 1918, the day the guns fell silent.

We remember those who are there but not there.

We remember them in war cemeteries all around the world.

American cemetery, Thiancourt-Regnieville, France, my photo

There are so many crosses from The Great War.

British cemetery, La Ville Aux Bois, France, my photo

So many monuments.

my photo, France

We remember the loss of sons and daughters and fathers and husbands of so many nationalities. 

German cemetery, Neuville St. Vaast, France, my photo

We remember those who made the ultimate sacrifice.

We remember them even if we don't know their names.

British cemetery, La Ville aux Bois, France, my photo

In our communities everywhere we remember those who are there but not there.

Arundel Cathedral, photo by Simon McAlister

We remember so they will not be forgotten.

We remember those who endured the horrors of the trenches.

A hundred years on, we can still see the trenches.

Apremont la Foret, France, my photo

With our poppies and hymns and silence, we remember war's casualties, those who are there but not there.

Arundel Cathdral, West Sussex, photo by Simon McAlister

We remember the homes and communities destroyed.

We remember the earth, devastated and contaminated.

We remember The Great War that was supposed to be The War to End All Wars. 

Littlehampton, West Sussex, my photo

Only it wasn't. 

photo by Swire Chin, Toronto

We remember that there was much more sorrow to come.

Canadian cemetery, Vimy Ridge, France, my photo

We remember that freedom has to be fought for.

We remember that a lot of us have forgotten this.

We remember people by giving them a bench with a plaque.

We remember them on our cenotaphs.

Littlehampton, West Sussex

We remember them when we sit by the sea.

Southsea, photo by Jenny Warner

We remember casualties of wars all over the world, not just those who died but the injured as well. 

We remember that not all wounds are physical.

We remember those who risked their own lives to care for the wounded.

We remember the animals who are victims of war. 

We remember the horses and mules who pulled impossibly heavy loads and died from wounds or exhaustion in the mud.

We remember the dogs and birds who carried messages across dangerous landscapes.

We remember that they had no choice.

Animals in War Memorial Hyde Park, London, my photo

We remember the love of them who came not home from the wars.

my photo, Sandown Isle of Wight

We remember to stop and reflect on a simple remembrance bench like this one at Sanquhar in Scotland.

We remember those we have shared experiences with in times of war and peace. 

We remember servicemen and women and their sacrifices.

We remember those who kept the home fires burning.

shop window Freshwater, Isle of Wight, my photo

We remember the survivors, like this Chelsea Pensioner in London.

This year our villages and towns and cities remember World War One in lots of ways. 

We remember in our parks.

Littlehampton, West Sussex, my photo

We remember in laybys beside the road.

Rustington, West Sussex, my photo

We remember with soldier silhouettes and with flags.

Rustington, West Sussex, my photo

And of course we remember with benches.

One hundred years ago on the eleventh hour on the eleventh day of the eleventh month, the guns fell silent.

So we remember to remember on November 11th each year.

Lest we forget, we remember.

in memory of my great uncle Edwin


World War I was fought all around the world and for this reason is referred to as The Great War. Around 65 million fought worldwide. It claimed 37 million lives, including 8.8 million civilians. In addition there were 19.7 million wounded. In one battle alone, the Battle of the Somme in France in July 1916, over one million soldiers were killed, wounded or missing. 

Sweet peace, where dost thou dwell? is a line from the poem Peace by George Herbert.

The silhouette of the soldier on the cliff is at Dover. He's part of the There But Not There art installation project that has appeared throughout Britain in 2018. Silhouettes of soldiers have appeared everywhere to raise money for a number of charities which support those affected by war. The later photograph uses perspex to construct ghostly figures of soldiers who are seated in churches and cathedrals. The photograph shows the 93 soldiers who are there but not there in Arundel Cathedral in West Sussex.

Mandy Willard lives in beautiful Shoreham-by-Sea in West Sussex. She is a member of the Seven Sisters Camera Club and has apparently gone a bit mad about cameras. In Bexhill-on-Sea in 2012 she found an artificial poppy in the leaves whilst walking through the local cemetery and she set up the beautiful shot of the red poppy on the bench.

The glorious field of poppies is from the Somme and Flanders Fields collection of Flickr member TT24813055 I regret that this link is no longer live and I have been unable to trace Boris the Boy.

Poppies whose roots are in man's veins drop, and are ever dropping is from a poem by Issac Rosenberg.

Stuart Williams is Smudgerstu, and a writer, photographer and historian working in The Black Country of England. He took the gorgeous photo of poppies on the green bench at the Bloxwich War Memorial in 2009. His photostream is at He has the best photos I've seen of the new, amazing Birmingham public library.

The Delaware Legion cenotaph bench was photographed by TinhutJohn, otherwise known as John P Sargeant. It is one of thousands of cenotaph photos taken for his photostream at The bench is inscribed with John McCrae's famous poem In Flanders Fields. The poem is a rondeau, written during the World War I by Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae, a physician from Guelph, Ontario. He wrote the poem on May 3, 1915, after his friend and fellow soldier died in the Second Battle of Ypres. First published in London in December 1915, it is one of the most popular and most quoted war poems. McCrae survived the WWI battles but died of pneumonia in a military hospital in Flanders in January 1918.

The first photograph of graves is from a visit Mungo and I made to Flanders in 2008. We visited the Menin Gate in Ypres, where the names of 54,896 soldiers who died without graves are inscribed. Another 30,000 who died without graves are listed on the Tyne Cot memorial outside town. We also visited a few of the 150 cemeteries in the area. The photo is from Lijssenthoek Military Cemetery near Poperinge, where there are 10,000 graves, mainly British but also French, Germans, and Canadians. One Canadian German is buried with the Germans and has a maple leaf flag. Americans, New Zealanders and Australians all have their own cemeteries.

We took a later trip to the Somme in autumn 2017. The scale of World War One comes into focus as you travel throughout this area of southern Belgium and northern France. In the area around Peronne in France we visited the many memorials for Australians who liberated the town, as well as smaller cemeteries for Indian (Sikh), New Zealand, and South African Commonwealth soldiers. Around the town of Bethune there are more cemeteries for Czech and Polish soldiers. 

The Americans entered World War One rather late in 1917 but the arrival of fresh troops onto the battlefields supported the Allies in finishing the war. Some of the fiercest battles took place during the summer and autumn of 1918. The photo shown is the American cemetery at Thiancourt-Regnieville, where there are 4153 graves plus a monument to 283 missing. This was the actual site of battle in September 1918. My great uncle Edwin was there that day. He didn't die and wasn't wounded physically but the mental trauma stayed with him the rest of his life and he died in a long stay veteran's hospital in the 1950s. 

German military cemeteries have black crosses. The picture shown is the German cemetery at Neuville St Vaast, which is the biggest German cemetery in France. There are 44,833 graves with black crosses and there are four men buried under each cross. Another 8040 graves of unknown soldiers are also buried here.  

Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his country. This is inscribed on a bench memorial called Poppies, by artist Stanley Proctor. It was photographed by John Krzeslinski at the new Veteran's Hospital in Pleasanton, California

Unknown Soldier graves are everywhere in cemeteries throughout the world. This one is at La Ville Aux Bois British cemetery in France where a battle took place on May 17-18, 1917, leaving 540 dead. In this cemetery there are 564 graves, 43 of them unknown soldiers. 

You will never be forgotten is a memorial bench photographed by Sandra Crzytx in 2007. I'm not sure but I think it might be somewhere in Kansas. Sandra is a grandmother of six. She loves her camera, her pets, the blues, travel, and doing anything outside.

The National Library of Scotland is a fantastic source of historical material. I have used in this blog seven photographs from their album of nearly 2000 official British photographs from World War One. The photographs in this album show the courage and endurance of every day life during times of war and the cost of war, its devastation and its misery. In this story the National Library of Scotland photographs appear in black borders. 

The Great Battle of Messines Ridge in France took place in 1918. This was trench warfare with very little distance between the fighting soldiers. The photograph Reading the News in the Trenches shows British soldiers huddled around newspapers in the trenches, just 1000 yards from the German position.

A view of Courcelles in France in 1918, likely to have been taken in the autumn of 1918, after the Allies had recaptured much of this area. The Germans in retreat had devastated many villages and towns, to hinder the troops and demoralise the French civilians.

In the areas directly affected by the Western Front, somewhere between 60% and 80% of buildings were destroyed during the conflict. Industry had been destroyed and the land itself was torn up and deeply contaminated.

"The devastated landscape of shattered trees and shell-pocked earth extends as far as you can see and  typifies the desolation of 'No Man's Land', the area between the trenches of the German and British sides.This National Library of Scotland photograph shows British mortars bombarding German trenches. At the end of the war the French had the task of restoring this trenched and cratered landscape. Hidden in the mud were remains of shells, miles of wire, wrecked equipment and the bodies. Eighty years after the end of the war, remains were still being found".

There are many places you can still see trenches throughout France.This photo is a German trench in Aprement la Foret near St. Mihiel. A walk through this forest shows just how close the German and Allied trenches were to each other. The Battle of St. Mihiel took place in September 1918 and claimed over four thousand lives. The trench overgrown with greenery but still visible is a photo Mungo and I took in 2017 on a trip to the Somme. We followed the WW1 Voie Sacree (Sacred Road) from Bar le Duc to St. Mihiel, a  drive that is both scenic and historic. 

The silhouette benches with red poppies have been appearing all over towns and cities in the UK. This one was in Littlehampton in West Sussex.

The beautifully sorrowful grieving woman monument is at the Canadian Memorial Park at Vimy. The Battle of Vimy Ridge took place from April 9-12, 1917 in unimaginable horror. Huge craters remain where bombs exploded along the seven mile line of trenches. One hundred years on there are undetonated bombs in the park so sheep are used to mow the grass. The monument shows the names of the 66,000 Canadian dead who are buried in three cemeteries on the site. 

It's worth remembering that the fragile peace following the end of World War One lasted barely twenty years. The black bench from World War Two was photographed near Hatfield Station in Hertfordshire in 2016. The photographer is Swire Chin, an accounts receivable analyst living in Toronto.

The Freedom is never free veterans' memorial bench is in Hutchinson County Texas. The photograph was taken in 2008 by Billy Hathorn, made available on WikiCommons at

The Sorry badge is from National Apology Day in Australia in 2011. National Apology Day is a day on which Australians remember the Stolen Generations of Indigenous Australians through wearing a native hibiscus flower to show solidarity for remembrance and healing. It was photographed by Mark Binns at butupa, who has full sets of photographs from National Apology Days and and National Sorry Days in his photostream at The next National Apology day will be February 13, 2014.

Stuart Lee lives in London and travels widely. He has thousands of pictures of people and places, among them the beautiful curved bench in Bristol. This bench commemorates the merchant seamen who have always been an important part of Bristol's history as a port city. Stuart also took the first photo on this post, which is a bunch of flowers tied to the Bristol bench. His photostream is at

The cenotaph with its long list of names is in Littlehampton in West Sussex. The wooden soldier with his gun and the black memorial poppy bench are also in Littlehampton. Neighbouring Rustington has a number of silhouette soldiers and has created a planted area with flags and benches to commemorate WW1. 

The bench facing the sea is for a child who died. It's on the seafront at Southsea near Portsmouth and at the time was slightly yarnbombed, which makes it colourful, as does the beautiful day and the view looking over to the Isle of Wight. The photo is a gift from Jenny Warner. 

The crowd of benches is facing the harbour at Seahouses, a town in Northumberland which is halfway between Newcastle and Edinburgh. It's sometimes known as the gateway to the Farne Islands. The photographer is David Lally, who took the photograph in 2008 for Geograph.

Another photograph from the National Library of Scotland, a motley line of British soldiers are sitting on a rickety bench at a British casualty clearing station on the Western Front in France. Casualty clearing stations were the first port of call for wounded soldiers. Here wounds were assessed and the soldiers sent on to the appropriate hospitals. Allied soldiers were treated at the nearest station, regardless of nationality, would have been a minor consideration during the tense and chaotic period surrounding battle.

The Voluntary Aid Detachment (VAD) nurse is at work on the Western Front in France in 1918. VADs were volunteers who trained in nursing and First Aid to serve in both world wars. More than 1500 nurses died in World War One. The photograph is another from the marvelous archives of the National Library of Scotland.  

War Horse is the children’s novel, award-winning play, and film by Michael Morpurgo. The story recounts the experiences of Joey, a horse purchased by the Army for service in France during World War I and the attempts of young Albert, his previous owner, to bring him safely home. The War Horse book bench is one of 50 book benches scattered around London in the summer of 2014. The artist is Rae Smiht and it was created by Gerard Strong. It was photographed by Martin Pettitt  and appears in his comprehensive book bench album at

There were over 88,000 dogs at the front line in World War 1. About 7,000 of them were British family pets, volunteered by their owners for the war effort. The poignant photo of a dog-handler reading a message brought by a messenger dog reminds us that animals also faced the horrors of war in World War 1. This dog has just swam across a canal to get to his master. The National Library of Scotland describes the scene: "With his soaking wet messenger beside him, the handler is checking a message that this dog has just carried to him. The message would been scrolled up inside a waterproof container attached to the dog's collar. It is likely that the kit bag worn on the handlers chest would have contained the incoming and outgoing messages. After recruitment from Battersea Dogs' Home, trainee messenger dogs were trained for service at The War Dog Training School in Shoeburyness, England. Once their training had been completed, the dogs were posted to kennels at Etaples in France, which was close to the Western Front. The dogs were then posted to kennels just behind the front line, where they joined up with infantry regiments".

Animals in War is a memorial to all animals in wars with British and Allied forces. Unlike human beings, they had no choice. A sculpture by David Backhouse, the monument is in Hyde Park in London and easily missed amongst the bustle of Park Lane traffic. The book, the film and the play War Horse by Michael Murpugo has called at
tention to the plight of horses in war; dogs, donkeys, mules, oxen, pigs, rats, camels, elephants, pigeons, and all sorts of marine animals have also been unwitting victims of war for transport, for bomb detection, or to conceal explosive devices. The memorial inscription reminds us of the misery of war and that animals had no choice.

People suffered and died from wounds but also from starvation and from diseases such as cholera, pneumonia and influenza. Many soldiers experienced unimaginable horror and suffered from the trauma of war, or what was then called shellshock.  When casualties are counted there is a tendency to count the dead and to forget those who are wounded by the mental trauma of war. Homesickness, fear, and the constant threat of death pushes many people over the edge in times of war. Sometimes these scars are long lasting. We have words for this now - Post Traumatic Stress Disorder - but in World War One people were expected to return to the battlefield even after gas attacks and extreme shock. 

Thoughts of Home is another memorable photo from the National Library of Scotland album in 1918. "This rather evocative photograph shows a single British soldier sitting on a wheelbarrow, apparently lost in his thoughts, while horse transports move along the road behind him. For the ordinary soldier, moments of solitude would have been few and far between. The sentimentality of the original caption and the anonymity of the profiled head, suggest that this photograph may have been intended for consumption on the Home Front. In reality, as many first-hand accounts show, home often seemed an unreal dream to men at the Front".

The Sanquhar War Memorial is in a quiet corner of a park in Sanquhar in Dumfries and Galloway in Scotland. Just out of sight is the curling pond; Sanquhar has the world's oldest registered curling club (1774). Sanquhar is also known for having the oldest working post office in the world. It was established in 1712, though with recent cuts of village post offices all around the UK, I'm not sure it's still there. The photographer is Colin Smith for Geograph in 2009 at

The Old Contemptibles Association refers to survivors of the First British Expeditionary Force of August-November 1914 which fought in the series of Flanders battles to protect the Channel Ports. The motto of Old Contempible chums was 'We'll do it!! What is it?' The last 'Old Contemptible' and the sole remaining survivor of the 1914 Christmas truce was Alfred Anderson, who died aged 109 in 2005.The Old Contemptibles Association shown is the Edinburgh branch and the bench is sited at Edinburgh Castle. The photographer is David M. Jensen (Storkk), photographed in 2004.

The carved wood soldier is one of the newest wood sculptures by Paul Sivell at The Carved Tree. Paul makes intriguing chainsaw sculptures and is inspired by nature, local traditions, and mythology. His distinctive style is well known around the Isle of Wight though he also works throughout the UK and abroad. The soldier is one of his many functional sculptures (benches!) which can be seen at Fort Victoria Country Park near Yarmouth and at   Paul will also be carving a sculpture in remembrance of the 40 Royal Marine Commandos who trained on the Isle of Wight.

The Keep the Home Fires Burning photo was seen in an antique shop window in Freshwater, Isle of Wight in November 2014. This shop, in School Green Road, has gorgeous window displays.

The Voluntary Aid Detachment (VAD) nurse is at work on the Western Front in France in 1918. The photograph is from the marvelous archives of the National Library of Scotland. VADs were volunteers who trained in nursing and 
First Aid to serve in both world wars. 

The model Chelsea Pensioner is seated on a bench outside the Royal Hospital in Chelsea, London, which is a retirement and nursing home established in the 17th century for former members of the British army. 'In-pensioners' surrender their army pension  in return for a small room (berth), board, clothing and full medical care. The photograph is by Colin Smith in 2007 at

Mary Harrsch, who lives in Oregon, is a politically liberal, independent woman who is passionately interested in technology, history, and education. She photographed a place to rest among the tulips at the Wooden Shoe Tulip Farm near Woodburn, Oregon. Though tulips are not poppies, the traditional memorial flower, I think this field of red would make a fitting tribute.

Jonathan Cooper is Casatigeo, who took the stunning photograph of the benches at the Imperial War Museum North. Jonathan is a big fan of street photography and uses a mix of rangefinder cameras, depending on how much weight he wants to lug around. He's a fan of benches so his photostream has some lovely ones

On Arhus seafront in 2009 Teo Sartori photographed a weary looking soldier on a bench with his back to us. The soldier was then apparently stolen sometime after. Oh, I hate stolen artworks. I hope the soldier found his way home.

The black and white bench with the poppy wreath was taken in Alrewas, England in 2011. The photo is by foxy, who likes benches and has a lot of them in her photostream at

I have already made the Peace message in previous blogs for World Peace Day in September. This Let There Be Peace bench was photographed in 2010 by David Schwartz. It's on his photostream at and he also made it available at Creative Commons where I was delighted to find it.

No comments:

Post a Comment