I wear a Poppy To Remember….

I wear a Poppy To Remember….

my Father: a signalman; who was captured in North Africa during World War 2

my Grandfather, a rifleman, who was wounded in Delville Wood

my Uncle: an air mechanic, who died in Egypt during World War 2, and who is the reason for my war grave photography

 

I remember the soldiers that I served with and who never completed their national service in South Africa.

Lionel Van Rooyen, Johann Potgieter, Peter Hall,  Hennie Van Der Colf

I remember those men of the South African Native Labour Corps who lost their lives in the sinking of the Mendi

I remember all of those other African and South African soldiers who have been largely unrecognised for their service

 

I remember the dedicated  nurses, VAD’s and other women who served in medical disciplines during and after the wars, many never returned and were victims of the conflict.

 

I remember the merchant seamen who faced not only a determined enemy, but the sea in all its fury, often in coffin ships that were only one screw turn away from the breakers yard. 

 

I remember those who have no grave, and who are just names on a memorial

I remember the soldiers, sailors, airmen, civilians, children and animals who lost their lives in the folly we call total war 

I remember the 6 million Jews who were exterminated
 
 
And the millions of other casualties who were caught up in the madness
 
I remember those who were left behind

and those who will die tomorrow, or next week, or next year, defending their country, their comrades, and their families; often for a cause they do not understand.

I remember them all because it is important to never forget them and to never drag the world down into the horror of total war, and I curse those who sit in positions of power and who create the conflagration but who never die in it, for they are a curse upon mankind. May they have to answer for the monsters that they unleash and may their punishment be eternal. 

 

When you go home
Tell them of us and say
For your tomorrow
We gave our today

 

Postscript.
Words do not adequately describe the feelings that I have around about this time of the year,  I served as a national serviceman in 1980/81, and when I first went in I did not think that at the end of 1981 I would have 4 names in my memory that would be with me until I die. My grandfather was a soldier, my father was a soldier, as was my brother, and so was I, my father and grandfather were volunteers, my brother and I were conscripts.  

It is difficult to quantify all of those who I have omitted, I could probably fill reams of paper with groups of people who were affected by warfare, and of course who continue to be affected by warfare. The images on this page are my own with the exception of the image of the grave of my late uncle Robert Turner who is really the reason I photograph war graves. I never knew him, but my mother did, and she still mourns him to this day. 

Remembrance Day, 09/11/2014

By the time I finish this, Remembrance Day will be fading. I am in a new city, starting a new job tomorrow, and it has been an overall hectic weekend. My plan was to attend the commemoration in Salisbury, and immediately afterwards to head for Basingstoke. The weather on Saturday had been wet and cold and I was really worried that the day would be rained out. However, like last year in Southampton, the sun graced us with its light. It was a glorious, if not slightly chilly day. 

The Wreath Laying would take place outside the Guildhall and at the War Memorial on the market square. Because of its placing I have always struggled to get decent images of the war memorial. Usually the sun rises behind it so any morning shots just don’t work, and then it gets really busy around here and there are gazillions of people around. I guess I have always been meaning to get better shots, but I never have.

Because of my moving I arrived just as the column of old soldiers and servicemen and women were moving off and there were crowds lining the streets to see them go. Poppies (and puppies) abounded. 

The crowd around the memorial was 5 deep in places, and security was everywhere. I have to admit that  I was glad to see so many parents bringing their children along, and how many were wearing their poppies with pride.

And once the columns had arrived, the dignitaries came out of the Guildhall and joined the ceremony. It was not a long drawn out one, but the poignant call of The Last Post made everybody aware that we were here at a special time, and that there were no old soldiers from the First World War to join in. 

After the 2 minute silence there was the Kohima Epitaph, which really sums it all up.
When you go home
Tell them of us and say
For your tomorrow
We gave our today.

After the official wreaths were laid, and the soldiers and scouts marched off, it was time to approach the memorial and if need be pay our own tribute. 

The memorial was bedecked with the familiar red and black wreaths that are used on these occasions. And there was a green poppy field to plant any poppy crosses on.

I laid a cross to represent my family members who had served, and for the friends that lost their lives in the border war. They are the ones I remember. Each of those small plywood crosses represents many things, but often it is tangible link between those today and those who never came back.

 

And then it was time to go, I had a train to catch and I would be leaving this city where I have lived for just under a year to start anew elsewhere. But I left a small part of me behind,  and when I pass this way next weekend I shall stop and check on the memorial, and hopefully it will still be bright and filled with the reminders of those who went before.

In memory of Robert Owen Turner,  Herbert Turner, David Walker, Mathys Slabbert, Lionel Van Rooyen, Johan Potgieter, Peter Hall and Hennie Van Der Colff.
 

DRW ©  2014-2020. Created 09/11/2014. Images recreated 20/04/2016

Remembrance Day 2013

I must admit that I am pleased to see the many Poppies on display in Southampton and Salisbury, it brings the whole Remembrance Day closer to me as as we approach the 11th of November. Back in South Africa such displays were rare, and even finding a poppy to buy was difficult. alas many of those who used to stand in the shopping malls with their medals and collection boxes have passed on, and a lot of the ex servicemen groups closed ranks as their membership slowly died off. And then of course we had the case of a shopping centre in Sandton that would not allow poppy sellers in its ivory towers, perhaps they thought that these men did not fit in with the yuppie crowd that they wanted in their mall. Yuppies do not seem to die in wars.
 
Coming back to reality though, as an ex national serviceman myself, I too have lost friends during my period in the military, so I wear a poppy for them too. This past year I saw a photograph of one of the boys we lost, and it was like seeing a ghost. I recall the sorrow I felt when I finally found his grave, and it is as important to remember him on the 11th too.
 
There will be a parade and wreath laying in Southampton tomorrow, and I will probably be lurking in the background somewhere with my camera. 
I just hope that the weather plays its part too. I may also head across to Southampton Old Cemetery to attend their service, but again that is all weather dependent. 
Cross of Sacrifice, Southampton Old Cemetery.
Irrespective of where I will be though, I will be a part of the brotherhood of military veterans. A select group of people who “served their country”, although in the case of the South Africa it appears as if we really just wasted our time.  My association with South African War Graves Project will also bear fruit as the database will finally be going live on the 11th. It has been a long road to get to this point, and we still have a ways to travel.
 
I know this is a very jumbled collection of words for such an important day, but I can’t quite get a coherent sentence out because there is such a lot of significance to this week of November in my life that often I can only really touch bases here and there. 
 
In Memory of:
Robert Owen Turner. Died in Egypt WW2.
Matt Slabbert Died in France 1918
Herbert “Bertie” Turner. Deville Wood Survivor
David Leonard Walker. WW2 survivor.
Rfn Van Der Kolf. E Company 11 Commando. 1980
Rfn Peter Hall. B Company 61 Mech Bn Grp
Rfn Lionel van Rooyen. B Company 61 Mech Bn Grp
Cpl Johann Potgieter B Company 61 Mech Bn Grp.
 

 

DRW © 2013-2019. Images recreated 14/04/2016