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Remembrance Sunday

All over the country today, there will be services, parades and ceremonies to commemorate the dead of the two world wars and of subsequent conflicts, including those who have given their lives in the ongoing wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.  Originally, the dead of the first world war were buried (if at all) in the far away places: Gallipoli, Salonika and Mesopotamia to name only a few, as well, of course, as in France and Belgium on the Western Front.  There was no repatriation; with very few exceptions the fallen were buried where they fell. 

The word Cenotaph is derived from the Greek expression meaning empty tomb.  The original was a wooden temporary structure, designed by Edward Luytens for the peace procession of July 1919.  More than 15,000 troops took part in the march, led by the allied commanders.  In the cross aisle you will find a book open at a photograph of the event that you might like to look at later.  The public’s imagination was captured and so the permanent cenotaph, that we know today, was built to the original design.  It was King George the Fifth who by his personal request moved that that there should be “at the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month a compete cessation of all our normal activities.” 

Memorials, graves and monuments provide a tangible link with the past, especially against the background of loved ones not having been brought home but the silence that is a link between public grief and private mourning.

So it is good, I think, that there is a new memorial in our village to those who gave their lives for the freedom we all enjoy today.  Even though we may not be able to name individual sons or daughters of Streatley, we know that there were many who were maimed or injured in the war effort; many too whose relatives and friends were lost and of course there are members of our parish who are serving in various capacities in the forces today.

Modern remembrance has to take account of a less coherent understanding of conflicts - from the Falklands to Iraq - but we have to remember modern professional soldiers, air force and navy personnel, men and women fighting far away hoping as those went before them that by their sacrifice they will bring peace to a world that almost a century on still as desperately needs it.

Amen    

 

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