November 11 is celebrated in many places over the world to remember those who have fallen in war and pray for peace, celebrated on the date when the First World War officially ended by signing an armistice in 1918. For example, it's known as Veterans' Day in the US, National Day in Poland and The Day of Peace in Belgium. In Great Britain and the 53 members of the Commonwealth, it's known as Remembrance Sunday. It's tied in with the Royal British Legion's Poppy Appeal, which was conceived of in the US by academic Moina Michael, who was inspired bu John McCrae's poem In Flanders Fields
I was gutted at missing the Festival of Remembrance this year, I can't remember the last time I missed it.
This morning, Rector Pellegrina presented a wreath she'd made from evergreen branches from her garden, and invited the children of the parish - both ununiformed and members of the Scouts adn Girl Guides - to thread poppies into it.
Then, as we do every year, we processed from St Gallicus to the Draughty Old Fen War Memorial, where local clergy called out the names of everybody from the Fen and surrounding villages who had died in conflicts since the First World War - WWII, Korea, the two Gulf Wars, Northern Ireland and the present wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
There'll be another, smaller ceremony at the War Memorial on Wednesday, when the Parish Council and members of the Royal British Legion will lay poppy wreaths at 11 o' clock on the 11th day of the 11th month. For the first time, children from the Draughty Old Fen will be present. And they'll recite the fourth verse of Laurence Binyon's poem For the Fallen, as we did at the end of the service:
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 contemn.
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.