Sunday morning music, for the centenary of Armistice Day

One hundred years ago today, “on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month” of 1918, fighting ended in the First World War with the implementation of an armistice.  Since then, 11th November has been celebrated all over the world, particularly in Britain and her former colonies, as Armistice Day.  The full peace treaty took many months more to negotiate, but at least the killing was over.

It was one of the very worst, most destructive, and most pointless wars in the history of the world.  Untold millions died, or were maimed, or were hurt, yet their sacrifice achieved almost nothing.  So ineffectual and inconclusive was the end of World War One that it led inexorably, two decades later, to the start of World War Two, which was even more destructive.  Yet, the First World War would be spoken of with pride by the politicians of its day as “the war to end all wars”.  No, it wasn’t.

I have a family connection to the First World War.  My mother’s father was gassedduring one of the major battles, and never fully recovered his health.  His lungs and bronchial tubes were permanently affected.  As a very young child, I can recall him coughing, and coughing, and endlessly coughing, day and night, while he waited to die.  I can’t have been more than a few years old when he finally went to his rest.  There was no argument among my parents, of course.  They saw it as their job, their duty, to support him in his final years.  That’s just the way it was.  No welfare state, no government facility for disabled veterans – just family to take care of family.  I’m sorry we seem to have moved away from that sense of duty in these more affluent, but less compassionate times.  I think we’re the poorer for its loss.

At any rate, here’s one song, and one poem, to sum up the two sides of the World War One coin.  First, the human side, expressed very poignantly by Eric Bogle.

And then, the patriotic side, which remains very real even though it’s denigrated and mocked by so many today.  There was, and is, a value to patriotism that we seem to have forgotten – more’s the pity.  Let Laurence Binyon speak for it, both for England and, by extension, for all the nations involved.

May all those who died in, and because of, the First World War, be forgiven their sins, and rest in peace.

Peter

5 comments

  1. Here’s another song about a true event from World War One.
    John’s a bit of an old hippy, but still a hell of a singer.

    Legendary folk musician John McCutcheon presents the world’s most famous song about the Truce of 1914, “Christmas in the Trenches,” as part of his Christmas in the Trenches Centenary Concert at the National World War I Museum.
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cIxqJlnH2m8

  2. “Sgt. MacKenzie” is another haunting song about WWI. Joseph Kilna Mackenzie wrote it about his grandfather. I highly recommend going to the wiki page and reading the background.

    And you’ve heard it before, I am sure of it. “We were Soldiers” the movie about the first helicopter assault in the Vietnam War led by Hal Moore, used it. That dark, feral, haunting dirge sung in a heavy Scottish accent? That was “Sgt. MacKenzie.” Not a song to listen to when you are down.

    Thank you, veterans, who served the forces of Light against all the darkness in the world. That would include you, Sir Host, and LawDog, too, who fought evil and socialism, keeping it from your adopted shores before you were adopted. There isn’t a ‘naturalized citizen who stood against the darkness day’ but I feel often you all, in some way, protected the USA as much fighting your dark lost forgotten battles as the wars the US actively participated in.

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