Sunday, September 19, 2010

For Us to Live All Their Tomorrows

I don't know how many of you have ever been to a World War II cemetery, but it is a profoundly moving experience. I'm typing this looking out at rows of gravestones at a graveyard in Overloon. It's a comparatively small one with around 250 graves.

Earlier this afternoon we visited the Reichswald cemtery over the border in Germany. Buried there are more than 7,600 British, Commonwealth and Polish war dead. The grounds are simply beautiful. If anyone ever suggests cutting the funding of the Commonwealth War Graves commission, I suspect it might not be good for their political health.

As you wander past grave after grave, your eyes are imevitably drawn towards the citations at the bottom of each one. As someone whose eyes tend to go moist during the first few seconds of a Lassie film, you can imagine what state I was in by the end of the visit. But it was this one which particularly moved me, as to me it summed up why we have come on this visit and why each year we remember those who died in conflict.

"He died to give us another dawn, for us to live all his tomorrows."

Simply beautiful.

UPDATE: The grave marked the final resting place of Flying Officer D Hopkinson, died age 22, 17 May 1943.

18 comments:

JaE said...

Thanks for the reminder.

charonqc said...

Absolutely right - good post, Iain...with you on this one.

Jabba the Cat said...

Having been to visit the war graves at Monte Cassino I understand where you are coming from.

Mike said...

Ouch, lest we really do forget.

trevorsden said...

The same sentiment was expressed at the end of 'Saving Private Ryan' where an older Ryan hoped that the extra life he had been given had been worthy of the sacrifice given to save it.

It is really the ultimate question we all should ask and one wonders if any of us can answer 'yes'.

7,600 is a large and sad number, but lets remember on this Battle of Britain Day that there are probably nearly 50,000 graves all over France Belgium Holland and Germany of members of Bomber Command. Several thousand more were killed in training, some of them in my local churchyard.

BTW if you add military and civilian dead together France lost more than we did and in terms of % of population about a third again more.
Based on population New Zealand lost nearly as great a share as the UK and Holland lost nearly 4 times.

There are many ways to look at sacrifice.

Richard said...

I'm not religious, but many of the graves at Oosterbeek are marked simply "A soldier known to God", and this always sets me off. For your tomorrow, they gave their today.

JMB said...

I have photographed many war graves for the War Grave Photographic Project. A quick reminder...

"The aim of The War Graves Photographic Project is to photograph every war grave, individual memorial, MoD grave, and family memorial of serving military personnel from WWI to the present day and make these available within a searchable database."

http://www.twgpp.org/

I am sure there are many families who lost servicemen in distant locations who do not know there are often photographs of the grave available.

There are similar projects for most of the main Commonwealth countries.

killemallletgodsortemout said...

*humbled*

Fleet Street Blues said...

Flying officer D Hopkinson was one of those who died in the Dambuster's raid

Adrian said...

Have you been to the German war cemetery in Staffordshire? Also a beautiful and moving place, and a reminder that, by and large, service personnel are only doing their duty to the state, and in death deserve respect.

Malcolm Redfellow said...

I'm still consumed by guilt that my mother never got to Doullens Communal Cemetery no.2. She always wanted to pay respects to her father, whom she never knew, buried there.

jojoko said...

Have a thought for those who fought and died from countries so far away that their families could never visit their graves. There are many of them. To change the subject, my nephew's school took them to Normandy, had them wear backpacks weighing the same as the allied soldiers would have worn during the invasion and then they struggled though the water up the beach. This was about 30 yrs. ago, so of course H&S wouldn't allow it today but the students gained more from that exercise than 5 hrs. of classroom talking on the subject.

operanut1972 said...

And there will be a whole new section of Military Graves that gets bigger everyday. Our Service personnel still risk their lives on a daily basis so that we might live in peace.

Requiescat in pace!

Man in the Street said...

My parents took me to the killing fields. We visited cemeteries, trenches and attended the Mennen Gate ceremony in Ypres, Belgium.

The whole experience was very humbling.

Martin said...

Lame. When are you going to grow a pair and blow a gasket?

If you need an example of a real man: Dawkins.

ong said...

Hi Ian

You might be interested to know that this gravestone was in memory of an airmen who was killed participating in one of the most famous bomber operations of all time. He was a member of 617 Sqn engaged on the "Dambuster" raid.

He was the bomb aimer in Flt Lt Astell's crew. The aircraft was shot down by light flak on the way to the dams. All the crew were killed.

http://www.cwgc.org/search/certificate.aspx?casualty=2055589

Mirtha Tidville said...

I`ve had the priviledge of visiting many of the WW sites in various parts of France and they never fail to move you. Brave men indeed. May they all rest in Peace.

Forlornehope said...

If you can find a copy, may I recommend reading Sir John Hackett's account of his experiences at Arnhem and after "I was a Stranger". He was seriously wounded, escaped from hospital and was then cared for by a Dutch family. Their generosity and quiet heroism is profoundly moving. If caught, he would have been returned to captivity, they would have been shot.