The Eleventh Hour Of The Eleventh Day

Just a few of the dead of Verdun.

In years past, it was customary on this day to recite John McCrae’s In Flanders Fields, with its bellicose challenge to the living to follow the dead:

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

These days, one is more likely to hear Eric Bogle’s The Band Played Waltzing Matilda, which posits an unlikely late-life disillusionment on the part of a crippled Digger, or worse, his sneering Willie McBride, in which Bogle gleefully tells a dead Tommy what a chump he was.

Forgive me if I eschew both positions, and simply offer my respects and my gratitude to those who fought and died in the war that ended ninety years ago today… and their sons and grandsons and great-grand-sons-and-daughters who did likewise in the wars that followed.

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