This morning saw me with my Cubs and the Scouts at the Remembrance Day service at the cenotaph in New Galloway. I’ve been at services in the centre of Bolton and Manchester, both big busy towns and cities with hundreds of people, all the uniformed organisations and hundreds of the general public. I’ve been a number of times at the service at the memorial on the top of Great Gable in the Lake District, a strange and other worldly experience joining again hundreds of others at the very summit with lines of tiny figures approaching from every direction to stand in silence on the sometimes sunny sometimes wind swept sometimes blizzardy rocks at the top. This year I was in New Galloway on a glorious crisp autumn morning, it’s the village where my Cub group is based, a small rural community, a part of the Glenkens. All the services are moving for what they represent but this one here in particular makes me think and realise more than the others. A list is read of the names on the memorial, and from a tiny village like this there are a lot of names, then comes those that are obviously of the same family, some with two or three and one with four members all killed in World War One. One boy aged just 15 killed on a ship in the Dardanelles, I think that one is the one that does it, many of the kids I am with there are 14 and 15 and you can see them all sit up and listen more when his story is told as the vicar said this morning this boy was from a family of artists in the region, who knows what could have been. What a waste.
This poem the Cubs often read during the service
“Will you wear a poppy?” the lady said
And held one forth, but I shook my head.
Then I stopped and watched to see how she’d fare
Her face was old and lined with care.
But beneath the scars the years had made
There remained a smile that refused to fade.
A boy came whistling down the street
Bouncing along on carefree feet.
His smile was full of joy and fun
“Lady’, he said, “May I have one?”
As she pinned it on I heard him say
“Why do we wear a poppy today?”
The lady smiled in her wistful way
And answered, “This is Remembrance Day.
The poppy there is the symbol for
The gallant men who died in our war.
And because they did, you and I are free
That’s why we wear a poppy you see.”
“I had a boy about your size
With golden hair and big blue eyes.
He loved to jump and play and shout
Free as a bird he would race about
As years went on he learned and grew
And became a man as you will, too.”
“He was fine and strong with a boyish smile
But he seemed with us such a little while.
When war broke out he went away
I still remember his face that day.
When he smiled at me and said ‘Goodbye
I’ll be back soon so please don’t cry.’”
“But the war went on so he had to stay
All I could do was wait and pray.
His letters told of the awful fight
I can still see it in my dreams at night.
With tanks and guns and cruel barbed wire
And mines and bullets, the bombs and fire.”
‘Til at last the war was won
“And that’s why we wear a poppy, son.”
The small boy turned as if to go
Then said, “Thanks lady, I’m glad to know.
That sure did sound like an awful fight
But your son, did he come home all right?”
A tear rolled down each faded cheek
She shook her head but didn’t speak.
I slunk away, head bowed in shame
And if you were with me, you’d have done the same.
For our thanks in giving is oft delayed
Though the freedom was bought and thousands paid.
And so you see, when a poppy is worn
Let us reflect on the burden borne.
By those who gave their very all
When asked to answer their country’s call.
That we at home in peace may live
Then wear a poppy, remember and give.
Author: Don Crawford