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Although November 11 is Remembrance Day, November 12, 2017 is Remembrance Sunday in the UK, making this a poignant weekend of remembrance.

The following are tweets on #Remembrance.

Before I get to them, November 10, 2017 marked the centenary of Passchendaele. Historian Dan Snow explains the final days. This is worth listening to:

The Royal British Legion website summarises this horrific months-long battle:

Fought between July and November 1917, Passchendaele, also known as the Third Battle of Ypres, remains one of the most notorious battles of the First World War. In three-and-a-half months of fighting, an advance of less than five miles saw an estimated 550,000 Allied and German troops killed, wounded or lost.

Around 90,000 British and Commonwealth soldiers were missing; 50,000 buried without being identified, and 42,000 never recovered from the Belgian fields of Flanders that turned into an ocean of mud.

The 100th anniversary of Passchendaele provides an opportunity to view WW1 in a new way and commemorate the Service and sacrifice of those who lost their lives.

The Irish Times has more, beginning with this:

In October 1917 the Canadian commander-in-chief Sir Arthur Currie arrived in Flanders to be told that his men would have to take the village of Passchendaele.

Currie was aghast at what his orders meant. After four months of fighting in terrible conditions, Flanders was a stinking sty of a place, a hellhole of water-filled craters, withered tree stumps and an ocean of mud.

Unburied bodies were everywhere. When the ground did not yield, soldiers knew they were walking on the corpse of a man.

Friend and foe alike were repulsed by the ghastly conditions in which the British and their Commonwealth allies were locked into a death grip with the German defenders. One Canadian infantryman said none acquainted with their ultimate goal expected to come back alive. “Each and every man felt it was a sure death trap”.

Ireland was still British then:

The last day of Passchendaele took a terrible toll on the Irish too. The 1st battalion of the Royal Munster Fusiliers was part of the 1st Division and it was pressed into the attack in support of the Canadians.

The Munsters’ official history recorded the men walking in the pitch dark and the pouring rain to their starting positions. The soil had the consistency of glue and yet the men were forced to carry with them a full marching pack, rations for three days, 150 rounds of ammunitions, two Mills bombs and two water bottles.

“Never have troops gone into action carrying a heavier load under worse conditions,” the history concludes. “They pressed forward in mud-bespattered, bloodstained, sodden groups.”

The attack began at 6am on November 10th, 1917, in the most horrendous conditions imaginable. The men were quickly up to their waists in mud.

We connect the Great War with poppies, thanks to In Flanders Fields, about which I wrote last year. John McCrea fought in the Second Battle of Ypres.

Hence their significance then — and now:

People from one town in the North East of England got together to knit poppies this year. This is a great video:

One lady in Doncaster crocheted poppies:

Here is a moving photo from the Second World War. In the midst of battle, these brave men took time to worship:

Men of faith fought and died for freedom:

They came from all over the Commonwealth:

Some people just don’t understand — including the Labour Party leader:

Yet, those who forget — or never learn their — history are doomed to repeat it.

The sacrifices were imponderable:

Those brave men and women gave their tomorrow for our today:

Which is why so many remembrance ceremonies take place around the world this time every year:

In closing:

(Forbidden Bible Verses will appear tomorrow.)

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poppy poppy flower flowerRemembrance Day — Armistice Day — falls on Friday, November 11 this year.

My posts from previous years explain the importance of this day:

The 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month

The tomb of the Unknown Warrior

A prayer for Remembrance Day

The march past the Cenotaph in 2015 (this year it will be on Sunday, November 13)

In Flanders Fields by Canadian physician and Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae is arguably the best known poem to remember the dead from the Great War (1914-18).

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

The poppy became the symbol of the Great War for two reasons: the popularity of In Flanders Fields and the fact that this flower was the first to grow on the graves of the fallen soldiers.

The Great War website tells us that McCrae (pictured at right) began drafting the poem on May 2, 1915 during the secondMajor John McCrae week of the Second Battle of Ypres:

John McCrae, was serving as a Major and a military doctor and was second in command of the 1st Brigade Canadian Field Artillery. The field guns of his brigade’s batteries were in position on the west bank of the Ypres-Yser canal, about two kilometres to the north of Ypres. The brigade had arrived there in the early hours of 23 April.

It is believed that the death of his friend, Alexis Helmer, was the inspiration for McCrae’s poem ‘In Flanders Fields’. The exact details of when the first draft was written may never be known because there are various accounts by those who were with McCrae at that time.

McCrae’s contemporaries gave three different accounts. One said he wrote it after Helmer’s burial as a means of consolation. Another said that he wrote it the day after his friend’s burial and noticed the poppies springing up around the various graves. The third, offered by McCrae’s commanding officer Lieutenant Colonel Morrison, suggested that he wrote it while waiting for the arrival of two groups of wounded men at the first aid post, giving him time to experiment with the poem’s metre.

Lieutenant Alexis Helmer (source: A Crown of Life)Lieutenant Alexis Helmer (pictured at left) was only 22 when he died. The Great War tells us:

Lieutenant Alexis Helmer was an officer in the 2nd Battery, 1st Brigade Canadian Field Artillery and had become good friends with John McCrae. On the morning of Sunday 2 May Alexis left his dugout and was killed instantly by a direct hit from an 8 inch German shell. What body parts could be found were later gathered into sandbags and laid in an army blanket for burial that evening.

He was popular among his comrades and well educated:

Before the outbreak of war he had graduated from McGill University with a degree in Civil Engineering. He was the son of Elizabeth I. Helmer of 122, Gilmour St., Ottawa, and the late Brigadier General R. A. Helmer.

A burial ground from the First Battle of Ypres in 1914 was nearby. Helmer was buried there. In the absence of a chaplain, McCrae conducted the graveside service himself, using the burial rite from the Church of England’s Book of Common Prayer. His grave was marked by a wooden cross.

By the time the Second Battle of Ypres ended, the field was filled with graves of Canadian and French casualties. This burial ground is now known as Essex Farm Cemetery.

Unfortunately, Helmer’s grave — along with 54,896 others — was lost. The names of these valorous men are listed on the Menin Gate Memorial in Ypres. Helmer’s name appears on Panel 10.

———————————————————————————————

I hope we take time to keep silence at 11 a.m. on November 11 to remember not only the courageous men of the Great War but also those of the Second World War and subsequent wars.

We will remember.

poppy field

 

(Photo credits: All-free-download.com [poppies] and The Great War [photos of McCrae and Helmer])

File:British plan Somme 1 July 1916.pngFriday, July 1, 2016 marks the 100th anniversary of the beginning of the Battle of the Somme.

(Image credit: Wikipedia)

This historic battle lasted 141 days. A daily service of remembrance will be held at the Thiepval Memorial to the Missing in northern France at noon through to November 18. British readers who are interested in attending may register via the Royal British Legion site. Thiepval is the largest Commonwealth war memorial in the world.

Access to Thiepval will be restricted until July 9 for special ceremonies. On July 1, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, Prince Charles and Prince Harry will attend a commemorative service. The service will tell the story of the battle and will include special readings, hymns and music.

Nearby towns will also hold remembrance ceremonies as will cities and towns in the United Kingdom and Canada. Germans will commemorate the centenary at their cemetery in Fricourt.

The Battle of the Somme began at 7:30 a.m. July 1, 1916 is still regarded as the worst day in British military history. On that day alone, 57,470 men were killed or injured; 19,240 died. By the time the battle ended on November 18, more than one million men — British, French and German — had been wounded or killed.

30a Sammlung Eybl Großbritannien. Alfred Leete (1882–1933) Britons (Kitchener) wants you (Briten Kitchener braucht Euch). 1914 (Nachdruck), 74 x 50 cm. (Slg.Nr. 552).jpgAmong the British soldiers were the Pals battalions, comprised of friends, relatives and workmates who were allowed to fight together. They had enlisted on the appeal of the recruitment posters featuring Lord Kitchener.

Private Sidney Lewis was one of those young men. In fact, he was only a boy — aged 12 — when he signed up in 1915. He was tall and stocky for his age. He was sent to the Somme and fought for six weeks. His mother discovered where he had gone, sent his birth certificate to the War Office and demanded his return. Sidney Lewis was sent home in August 1916, a year after he had enlisted.

The oldest soldier was Lt Henry Webber who died on the battlefield on July 27, aged 67!

Captain Wilfred Percy Nevill, known as Billie, decided that a football would calm his troops’ nerves. When the artillery bombardment lifted on July 1, he and another officer kicked the balls into ‘no man’s land’ and followed them. A Royal British Legion leaflet from May 2016 explains:

As the Advance approached the German barbed wire, the troops hesitated and Nevill dashed forward to kick the ball on. He was killed instantly.

No man’s land was the area between a system of trenches and dugouts protected by barbed wire on the British and German sides of the Western Front.

Conditions were extremely harsh. Each infantryman carried an average of 30 kg of equipment during the first phase of the battle. The weather was cold, the trenches wet. Troops had to live among disease-carrying rats. An average of 893 men died every day from July 1 to November 18.

Incidentally, the first British tank — the Mark I — made its debut on September 15 at the Battle of Flers-Courcelette.

Filming also took place during the Battle of the Somme. A feature-length documentary of soldiers in action — The Battle of the Somme — was quickly put together and premiered in cinemas on August 21, 1916. Six weeks later, 20 million Britons had seen it.

This is footage taken on July 1:

Another outcome of the battle, possibly because of the documentary, was a narrative against the officer class. A Royal British Legion paper on the battle says that the film by Geoffrey Malins and John McDowell showed no officers, only soldiers (p. 11 of the PDF). Yet, officers were close to their men — more so than today — and often led the charge.

Over the course of the battle, the British took a strip of territory from the Germans that was 20 miles long and five miles deep.

The onset of winter with its wet, unforgiving weather finally put an end to combat. Troops on both sides had been poorly prepared and inadequately equipped.

The horrifying death toll brought the reality of war home for Britain.

The emblematic battle for the French is Verdun. For Australians and New Zealanders it is Gallipoli.

For the British it is the Battle of the Somme.

We will remember.

Two of my posts last week — here and here — discussed the role of British women in the Great War.

Today’s post concludes the series, which will be included on my Recipes/Health/History page.

Much of the information in this series is from Kate Adie’s Women of World War One, based on her book Fighting on the Home Front, and was shown on BBC2 on August 13, 2014.

Smokes for Soldiers

ww1 A fag afrter a Fight postcardCigarettes — ‘fags’ in the vernacular — were seen to be as important a ration for soldiers as food and medicine.

Lady Denman, so instrumental in furthering Britain’s Women’s Institutes and a suffragette, initiated one of the funds for Lord Kitchener’s programme called Smokes for Soldiers.

Some cigarette cards, which accompanied the packs, showed soldiers in rare moments of quiet contemplation. Those pictured here are from Tony Allen’s fascinating page, Cigarettes & Tobacco and WWI Soldiers.

ww1 Bamforth smokes song card set of three

Carrera’s Black Cat cigarettes had a series of women on their cards. These depicted ladies working in war effort occupations, among them mechanics, coal workers and game keepers. The backs of the cards had brief descriptions of their duties. These made the troops aware that women were doing their part in what was probably seen as being an unheard of and fascinating way. Adie said that the cards proved to be very popular.

Food production

As yesterday’s post on the Women’s Institutes showed, ensuring Britons had enough food was paramount.

The government had statistics showing that farmers’ wives were the most likely ‘to go insane’. Indeed, the WI was able to help them to get out and about, if only to their meetings.

Women working in agriculture now had a new-found purpose, ensuring they could alleviate food shortages.

A further effort was made with the government’s introduction of the Women’s Land Army. Twenty-three thousand young volunteers were sent around the country to till the land, pick fruit, milk cows and take on other responsibilities. Farmers objected that the women were wearing trousers. The government assured them that the workers were feminine and ladylike.

The Women’s Land Army also participated in the same activities during the Second World War, spearheaded by the aforementioned Lady Denman who was their honorary head, sponsored by the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries.

Shipbuilding and dock work

Another controversial workplace for women were docks and shipyards.

Not surprisingly, male workers were concerned that low wages for inexperienced women would push their own pay packets downward. Unions ensured that any work arrangements were to be for the duration of the war only.

Women worked at several shipyards, including A&P in Tyne and Wear. The work that men previously did was divided up among women which made the pay and employment conditions more acceptable to long-standing male employees.

Medicine

The Voluntary Aid Detachment was comprised of upper and upper middle class women volunteers who cared for soldiers returning from the Front. Downton Abbey explored this.

The late Lady Jane Grey was interviewed in 1986 and said that as a young Voluntary Aid Detachment member she watched a doctor extract a bullet from a wounded soldier.

Nurses were concerned that the volunteers might not be able to care for the soldiers properly and that their recovery might be compromised as a result. However, with the number of injured men returning, they grudgingly agreed that the volunteers were needed.

Where doctors were concerned, only a few hundred women were physicians at the beginning of the war. They treated only women and children.

Some medical school professors refused to have women in their classes. Kate Adie said that, where women were taught, no professor showed them diagrams of the male anatomy.

In Edinburgh, the pioneering doctor Elsie Inglis established the Scottish Women’s Hospitals for Foreign Service Committee, a suffragette-sponsored medical team that provided all-women units to treat the Allied wounded. They had sent teams to France, Serbia and Russia. When Inglis approached the Royal Army Medical Corps, saying the Committee could offer their services, a representative from the War Office responded:

My good lady, go home and sit still.

Instead, the French government took Inglis up on her offer. She and her physicians went to Serbia under their aegis.

Two other suffragette physicians, Dr Flora Murray (left) and Dr Louisa Garrett Anderson (right) had better luck inLouisa Anderson.jpg establishing the Endell Street Military Hospital in Covent Garden, London. Perhaps this is because Murray was Emmeline Pankhurst’s personal physician. Alternatively, it might be because the hospital was in London and not overseas. In any event, Endell Street opened in May 1915 and stayed open until August 1919.

The hospital, staffed entirely by women, treated 24,000 men and carried out 7,000 operations. A convoy of ambulances arrived every night with soldiers requiring triage and emergency treatment. One who was treated there said:

This hospital is a triumph for women.

The Great War showed everyone — from soldiers to the general public to the War Office — that women could indeed practise medicine every bit as well as men.

In 1917, both women were made CBEs — Commanders of the British Empire. Today, a home for the elderly, Dudley Court, has replaced the hospital in Endell Street. It, too, has a medical centre, but no doubt staffed by men and women.

The vote

By 1917, there was little women could not do — except vote.

In parliamentary debates, Winston Churchill, who was then a young MP, said that women’s interests were adequately represented by either their husbands or male family members.

However, with most men still fighting in Europe and elections looming, Prime Minister Lloyd George and MPs debated the subject again. On February 6, 1918, they approved the Representation of the People Act by an overwhelming majority: 385 – 55.

It was thought that had the measure not been approved, suffragette demonstrations and violence could continue and perhaps escalate. MPs feared that the Bolshevik revolution might drift to the UK.

The new act did not enfranchise every woman, although it did respond directly to what the suffragettes wanted. (Suffragists, on the other hand, wanted universal suffrage for all men and women.) This act granted the vote to all women over 30 who either owned property or who were married to a registered voter. Many women were still unable to vote, including former suffragettes and those who were working in the war effort.

In some ways, the act did more for men. Prior to that, many were also unable to vote, including the troops in the trenches. Afterward:

All males over 21 gained the vote in the constituency where they were resident. Males who had turned 19 during service in connection with the First World War could also vote even if they were under 21, although there was some confusion over whether they could do so after being discharged from service. The Representation of the People Act 1920 clarified this in the affirmative, albeit after the 1918 general election.

It should be noted that some men — e.g. those affiliated with universities and property owners who had two homes — had a plural vote. In the case of university affiliation, they could vote in both the consituency where they were studying and in their home one. A property owner could vote where he lived and also where he owned property. This was abolished in 1948 in another Representation of the People Act.

Universal women’s suffrage was granted in the 1928 Representation of the People (Equal Franchise) Act, which gave all women over 21 the right to vote. The suffragists’ cause was finally won.

Post-war women’s work

After the war ended, women employed outside the home feared for the future.

Men returning home from the war expected and got their jobs back.

Six thousand munitionettes marched on Parliament for the right to continued employment. However, the government sent the message that women should now return home to be good wives, mothers and homemakers. The government said their efforts were greatly appreciated, but that time had now ended.

The level of women working outside the home soon returned to pre-war numbers. Mary Macarthur, the women’s union leader, was disgusted. She died of cancer in 1921.

The Church

In matters ecclesiastical, the controversial pacifist Maude Royden, who became assistant preacher at the nonconformist City Temple (United Reformed Church) in 1917, was the first woman to preach from a Church of England pulpit. That event took place in 1921 at St Botolph’s Church in London.

In 1929, she started the official campaign for women’s ordination. In 1931, she was the first woman to earn a Doctor of Divinity degree. By then, she had already completed preaching tours around the world.

Conclusion

Although the suffragettes and women working in the war effort were not all saints, they were highly capable at a crucial time in history.

What the Great War demonstrated was women’s worth in the working — perhaps, especially, a man’s — world.

It would be difficult to put women back in their box afterwards.

It is also worth remembering that it also became necessary for women to earn a living. No other generation of women in recent history lost more fiancés and husbands than that one. Thousands of widows and spinsters needed to work to support themselves and their children. They had to man up.

And finally …

You can see IBT‘s collection of Getty photos (mustn’t copy!) of women — mostly British, some French — working in factories and as policewomen during the Great War. It’s a fascinating mix of posters and photographs.

Yesterday’s post began a series on British women working outside the home during the Great War.

You might wish to read it, if you have not already done so, for general background on their status.

Much of the information in this series is from Kate Adie’s Women of World War One, based on her book Fighting on the Home Front, and was shown on BBC2 on August 13, 2014.

Munitionettes – ‘canary women’

By 1915, women all over Britain were involved in some way in the war effort.

Those who had worked ‘in service’ — as domestic help — often found work in munitions factories. They were sometimes referred to as munitionettes.

Britain had a shortage of artillery shells, which came to light in the Shell Crisis scandal. Prime Minister Herbert Asquith appointed David Lloyd George as Minister of Munitions. According to Kate Adie, Lloyd George saw a place for women in munitions factories. From behind the scenes he helped Emmeline Pankhurst to organise a demonstration of women asking to help in this regard. On the day, he appeared afterwards to speak to the women. Shortly thereafter, work on artillery shells increased rapidly, with the ladies’ help.

Working with explosives was dangerous. Death was always a possibility. The Rotherwas Munitions Factory in Hereford had a number of huts, each with thick concrete-reinforced walls. In case one hut exploded, the others would remain standing. The documentary showed us that, even today, slender tapers of TNT are still carefully bundled together and tied by hand.

Other hazards of munitions factory work included reactions to the powder: swollen faces, skin rashes and, worst of all, yellow skin. It was impossible not to breathe it in, to wash it off or to expel it. In fact, when these women walked into towns or villages to run errands, people were amazed to see their yellow skin and clothes. As such, they became known as ‘canary women’.

Adie interviewed Gladys Sangster, who was born in 1917. Her mother worked in a munitions factory. She had inhaled so much powder whilst working that Gladys was born yellow.

That said, the munitionettes felt as if they had been ‘let out of the cage’. They were outside of the home — theirs or someone else’s. They were earning their own salaries, which, by the end of the war, was three times that of what they had been earning as domestic servants. Furthermore, they were forming their own friendships with other women and enjoying their independence.

However, the spectre of death was as much over their heads as it was for the men fighting in Flanders.

The Germans had targeted British munitions factories. The end of a 12-hour shift did not mean the end of danger for these woman who were frequently evacuated, day and night.

Football

Association and league football was eventually suspended during the Great War. Too many men were serving in Europe.

Factory women and those working elsewhere for the war effort started organising their own games locally, even though then, as now, football was considered to be harmful to female reproductive organs.

The government was keen to ensure women workers got plenty of food to keep them healthy. The Great War saw the creation of works canteens for this purpose. Women were delighted to eat a balanced meal at least once a day. For many, meat was a luxury, so they welcomed a regular portion of it with potatoes and vegetables.

The government was also eager to ensure the women got plenty of fresh air in their free time. Football was one way to keep the women active and refreshed. Cities and towns began organising female football teams. Sometimes, women played men. The men had to have their hands tied behind their backs so as not to have an unfair advantage. Male goalkeepers were allowed to have one hand free.

Bella Reay was a top goal scorer during the Great War. She scored well over 100 goals in one season. Adie spoke with her granddaughter who showed her Reay’s gold medal given to her after the Munition Girls Final.

Ladies football continued after the war until 1921, when the Football Association banned it, saying it was too dangerous.

Female police, toughness and night life

The Great War gave birth to the girls’ night out.

The general public were shocked to see groups of working women invading the previously male-dominated pubs in the evenings. It was immoral. Ladies didn’t do that sort of thing.

Furthermore, people commented on the toughness of the women. It’s not surprising, but I do wonder how it manifested itself later on through their children, especially daughters, and in their grandchildren.

Margaret Damer Dawson sought to resolve this moral panic. She was the step-daughter of Thomas de Grey, the 6th Baron Walsingham. She was very much involved with good causes concerning women, children and animals. During the early part of the war, she and Nina Boyle patrolled the streets of London helping Belgian women refugees who were in danger of becoming prostitutes. Boyle led a team of women volunteers. Dawson was her assistant. The group was known as Women Police Volunteers and operated by government permission. It gradually expanded its scope outside of London.

In 1915, Boyle left the Women Police Volunteers over a disagreement over an incident involving women workers in Grantham, Lincolnshire. Boyle did not wish to have curfews for adult women. Dawson did. This set the tone for the next few years, with Dawson’s new Women’s Police Service. The posts were unpaid and strictly volunteer.

Incidentally, policemen told their top brass that they had no desire to work alongside ‘copperettes’. Therefore, the male officers had their patrols and the women theirs.

The Women’s Police Service focussed on children in trouble and female factory workers. The women factory workers resented the women constables’ attempts to ‘keep them in line’.

However, at work, where there were male employees, conflict sometimes broke out between the sexes. Dawson’s constables were called into a few establishments for daily patrols and to quell any disputes between male and female employees. Adie says that a ‘class system’ of hierarchy was set up so that females deferred to their male superiors with no arguments.

Although this all sounds rather orderly and righteous, after the war ended, the government rejected requests from Dawson’s Women’s Police Service to join the newly-created teams of women constables, who were paid for their work. The government termed the volunteers ‘sour, middle-aged fanatics’.

Dawson, quite possibly, never recovered from the rejection. She died of a heart attack in 1920.

Next: More causes, more work — including medicine

It is difficult to detach developments on Britain’s home front during the Great War from women’s liberation.

With so many young men in the trenches, someone had to continue the work they were doing before conscription.

In 1914, the home front opened up. Women would never be the same again. The ensuing four years would demonstrate that women could be as active and as productive as men.

Last year — on August 13, 2014 — veteran BBC reporter Kate Adie made a one-hour documentary on this extraordinary period in history. It is called Kate Adie’s Women of World War One, based on her book Fighting on the Home Front, and was shown on BBC2. What follows is a summary of the programme, eye-opening in many respects.

Women’s status

At the beginning of the 20th century, women were few and far between in work outside the home. It was unimaginable that they would be doctors or lawyers. A woman had men to represent and serve her in all aspects of life.

Many men took Paul’s verses from 1 Corinthians 14 and applied them not only to public worship but also private life:

33 for God is not a God of confusion but of peace, as in all the churches of the saints. 34 The women are to keep silent in the churches; for they are not permitted to speak, but are to subject themselves, just as the Law also says. 35 If they desire to learn anything, let them ask their own husbands at home; for it is improper for a woman to speak in church.

Of course, most Britons — men and women — were scandalised by women who dared to speak out, protest and put their lives in danger: the suffragettes, led by Emmeline Pankhurst.

It should be remembered that Pankhurst and her supporters wanted women votes only for a segment of the population. They did not want all women to vote, only those who were educated or who were property owners. Suffragists, on the other hand, wanted universal suffrage.

The home front opens

In August 1914, Pankhurst faced a dilemma. Would she and the suffragettes support the war effort — siding with the government they protested against — or pursue their campaign?

Pankhurst decided to suspend the campaign. She renamed their journal The Suffragette to Britannia with the slogan:

For king, for country, for freedom.

Meanwhile, the government needed thousands of men to enlist in the military. They created a campaign aimed at women, who, as moral arbiters, would encourage — shame, perhaps — their sons, brothers, sweethearts and husbands into uniform.

The popular music hall star Vesta Tilley decided to dress as a soldier as part of her act and sing a song encouraging sign-up. This was a shocking development, because women did not dress like men — ever. A tie? Trousers? Hair shoved under a cap and hidden? Unthinkable. It went against the biblical order of men’s and women’s roles. When Tilley premiered the new song at a Royal Command Performance, Queen Mary and many other women lowered their heads. They could not bear to look at her.

Yet, the press picked up on Tilley’s new act and, before long, everyone knew about it. Her audiences cheered. She continued dressing as a soldier and singing her war effort song.

By September 2014, 200,000 men had enlisted. Not all of the numbers were thanks to Tilley. Announcements in what we call the small ads in the back of newspapers also helped. Poster campaigns aimed at women as well as men were also influential.

Women from the aristocracy and landed gentry led the way in getting involved. The First Aid Nursing Yeomanry — FANY — was formed as was the Women’s Volunteer Reserve. Both groups had uniforms — jackets and skirts — but those in the Women’s Volunteer Reserve had to purchase their own. At a cost of £2 per uniform, it was a sum that only middle class women could afford.

Some of those women became ambulance drivers.

Women from the lower social classes volunteered to cook and clean.

The two Marys

Mary in tiara and gown wearing a choker necklace and a string of pearlsQueen Mary (left) started a needlework guild to encourage British women to knit warm clothes and accessories for the troops. These items included dressing gowns, pyjamas and hot water bottle covers.

The few women who were working in the textile and weaving industry objected.BCLM-Mary Macarthur 6b.jpg They belonged to the National Union of Women Workers, which safeguarded their employment and salaries. Mary Macarthur (right) headed the union and campaigned for equality in the workplace. She publicly objected to Queen Mary’s needlework guild as a threat to the union members.

Queen Mary wasted no time in summoning Macarthur to the palace. They had a long conversation. Both Marys were said to have ‘got on famously’ by the end of the meeting. They were both women of strong character and determination. Queen Mary asked Macarthur for more information on the plight of poor women forced to work. It wasn’t long before Queen Mary began visiting charities and hospitals for the poor. The press dubbed her the Charitable Bulldozer.

Tomorrow: women at work

Whilst the Great War raged on in 1915, on the home front, Britain’s first Women’s Institute was founded in Anglesey, Wales, in an attempt to keep families better fed.

Inspired by Canada

Our Women’s Institutes (WI) took their inspiration and organisational structure from Canada, where Adelaide Hoodless had founded that nation’s WI in 1897 as a way for wives of Farmers Institute members to share domestic science skills and foster friendship. By 1905, Ontario alone had 130 WI branches.

A Canadian lady and enthusiastic WI member, Madge Watt, moved to Wales in 1913. Two years later, she met John Nugent Harris. Harris was Secretary of the AOS — Agricultural Organisations Society. The Development Commission, a government body, funded the AOS, the purpose of which was to create farmers’ co-operatives for wartime food production.

Watt told Harris about the WI in Canada. Harris, aware that the AOS needed more people, asked her to establish the WI in Britain. Watt’s first meeting took place in Anglesey in September 2015. However, despite her enthusiasm and persuasion beforehand, only a handful of women attended. Those who were reluctant to take part felt uncomfortable being around others of different social classes.

The Great War years

Before long, however, Watt’s organisational and persuasive skills attracted more women. At the time, it was unusual for women to leave the house other than to run errands. Housework, cooking and tending a garden or part of the farm took up most of the day. Those who attended Watt’s meetings enjoyed the friendships they were forming with other housewives. One woman told another and a movement was born: one that not only helped the individual, but also the nation at a time when food was essential.

By the end of 2015, Wales had several chapters of the WI — and Watt had already branched out into England, where the organisation was established in Dorset, Sussex and Kent. Watt had taken the WI from one coast to another — Wales to Kent — within three months!

In October 2016, the WI chapters were so numerous that the AOS set up a subcommittee to oversee them. The AOS appointed Lady Gertrude Denman as head of this subcommittee. In September 2017, the Treasury decided that funding for the the growing WI movement should be transferred from the AOS to the Women’s Branch of the Food Production Department of the Board of Agriculture (which also organised the Women’s Land Army). At that point, Lady Denman, not wishing for the WIs to come under government control, was able to negotiate an agreement with the Board of Agriculture whereby the Board would fund the establishment of new chapters which would then become self-financing via members’ dues.

On October 16, 1917, delegates from 137 WI chapters and Lady Denman set up a central committee of management and created a constitution as well as set of rules. She was elected to head the WI.

The WI stipulated from the beginning that it was not to be politically or religiously aligned. That meant — and still means — that every woman can join. The objectives are to:

a) Study home economics; b) Provide a centre for educational and social intercourse and for all local activities; c) Encourage home and local industries; d) Develop co-operative enterprises; e) Stimulate interest in the agriculture industry.

A Scottish WI was established in 1917, known as the Scottish Women’s Rural Institute. Catherine Blair had a harder time there than Madge Watt in Wales. Women in East Lothian (outside Edinburgh) only met up with other ladies once a year at the local fête.

Although home economics has always been central to the WI, other topics discussed at early meetings varied by region. In England and Wales, lessons and tips on resoling boots from old tyres were popular. In Scotland, women were more interested in learning how to butcher pig’s carcasses.

During the Great War, the WI helped to bring new methods of food conservation to British housewives. Incredible as it might seem, conserving fruit at home was virtually unknown in 1916. The WI was able to get new American sterilising equipment shipped across the Atlantic. All 199 chapters expressed an interest in receiving and giving lessons on this new preserving technique.

The WI promoted the notion of foraging, although that was not what it was called then. Women understood the value of fruits growing in the wild and how they could be used for food. Some of this produce was conserved in the new American style. Other fruits were made into jam.

If there is one thing Britons identify the WI with is jam making. The WI demonstrated how to increase the yield of jam:

… for those women who had access to a ‘copper’, the quantities that could be made were enormous. Mrs Dunstan, writing in the WI’s own magazine, Home and Country in July 1919, recalled ‘We could make nearly one hundred pounds of jam in it at a time, and as the fire would burn anything such as rubbish, peels etc. our fuel bill for making six and a half tons of jam was less than two pounds.’

Also:

War time also brought out the best of women’s craftwork skills and ability to ‘make do and mend’.

In the summer of 1917, the WI opened a crafts stall at the National Economy Exhibition in Hyde Park, London. The public saw how experienced and creative members were in making rugs, toys, baskets as well as fur and leather accessories.

Today, the WI is Britain’s largest voluntary women’s organisation with 212,000 members in 6,600 local groups. Men are also welcome to attend. Although the focus is very much on domestic science, a number of chapters are also career-oriented, as many members work outside the home.

Centenary banquet

On October 10, 2015, a centenary banquet at the Drapers’ Hall in London was held to honour the WI.

Chefs, some of them Michelin-starred, competed to prepare winning dishes for the four-course meal. The competition was shown from start to finish on the BBC’s Great British Menu, which started in August with weekly regional heats around the country.

We watched every episode. What surprised us is that so many of the chefs attempted to reproduce WI recipes. Time and time again, the chefs judging their efforts warned them about trying to do something the WI members are all expert at — jams, cakes and bread! Friday’s episodes, which determined a regional winner, were judged by three other notables in the food world — as well as a WI member.

This is an indicative comment from one of the WI judges when it came time to select the chefs cooking at the banquet:

… guest judge Mary Quinn turned up and said that the WI has no time for drizzles or smears.

If I had been competing, I would have taken more of a classic approach and prepare dishes outside of the WI’s purview, rather than cheap cuts of meat and Scotch eggs. It was a banquet, not Sunday lunch. Yet, on the day, every dish looked breathtaking! The WI members and supporters attending loved every bite.

Best wishes to the WI for their continuing work in promoting British produce, especially dairy, as well as their campaigns for wildlife, particularly bees.

As we are on the subject of Downton Abbey and as Armistice Day is commemorated on November 11, it is worthwhile looking at how the Great War was the last nail in the coffin for the English country estate.

Today’s younger Britons as well as foreign tourists might think that the great estates were always few in number. However, that would be a false assumption to make.

We have this impression because these homes and gardens are open to the public. Therefore, we ‘know’ what we can visit.

One lesser-known benefit of Downton Abbey was a renewed research into the decline of the English country estate. Several books have been written since the series has been running. Among them are John Martin Robinson’s Felling the Ancient Oaks and Pamela Horn’s Country House Society: The private lives of England’s upper class after the First World War.

A number of online and offline articles have also addressed the subject.

19th century struggles

The Daily Beast discussed Robinson’s Felling the Ancient Oaks in 2012. We discover that many estates, based on agriculture, livestock and tenant farmers were already suffering in the early 19th century.

George Eliot wrote about the state of the estate in her 1832 novel, Felix Holt, the Radical (emphases mine):

the fortune that was getting larger in the imagination of constituents was shrinking a little in the imagination of its owner. It was hardly more than a hundred and fifty thousand; and there were not only the heavy mortgages to be paid off, but also a large amount of capital was needed in order to repair the farm-buildings all over the estate, to carry out extensive draining, and make allowances to incoming tenants, which might remove the difficulty of newly letting the farms in a time of agricultural depression. The farms actually tenanted were held by men who had begged hard to succeed their fathers in getting a little poorer every year, on land which was also getting poorer, where the highest rate of increase was in the arrears of rent.

The reason for the decrease in income, the article says, was because of new innovations in food production overseas. This gave rise to cheap imports from as far away as the United States.

In 1894, the Liberal Party were in government. They instituted estate duty, a tax still with us to this day.

As with all taxes, it steadily increased. It hit large estates particularly hard. Heirs had to sell their land in parcels to make pay the duty and ends meet after a parent’s death. Estate duty, The Daily Beast explains:

proved frequently an expense that estates could not afford, and propelled increasing sales of land in a market where fewer and fewer buyers were prepared to purchase en bloc. Lots were inevitably broken up, and a large number of these properties were lost.

And:

The examples detailed in Felling the Ancient Oaks almost invariably entail the loss of the main house, but make clear that the estate was more than this—not merely the home but also “gardens, parkland, farms, and woods with an attendant village or cottages, and a church with family tombs.”

These were vast landholdings. Some family land dated from the time of the Norman Conquest. Other estates were built on old abbeys destroyed in Henry VIII’s time. Later redistributions also occurred.

Even some of the estates open today which stretch as far as the eye can see are smaller than they were originally. The families have had to sell of large parcels to outside concerns, for example, British Rail (as was, for new railway lines), huge amusement parks, hoteliers or home developers.

Downton’s story explained

Owners of large estates devoted their lives to running them. Of course, not all were responsible farmers and landlords, but those who were, such as Lord Grantham and his son-in-law Matthew Crawley, had a great emotional and intellectual investment in responsible farming and associated tenancy.

The Tax Foundation has an excellent analysis of what happened at Downton. By 1922, Lady Cora’s own money was part of the estate and would be passed on. It was no longer hers. Lord Grantham had already regrettably lost money to a Ponzi scheme. Salaries were rising at a time when land revenues were decreasing.

Matthew came to the rescue and bailed out the estate. He and Lord Grantham signed a contract to co-own the estate.

When Matthew died in the car accident, his half of estate tax came due. (Lord Grantham’s half would come due upon his demise.) At that time:

by the period of Season 3 and 4 we’re operating under the Finance Act 1919. Rates were on a sliding scale up to 40 percent on estates exceeding £2 million, with only a tiny £100 exemption (about $8,000 today). Exemptions for amounts given to spouses or charity didn’t come about until 1974, so the full tax is due.

The Tax Foundation directs readers to Sam Brunson’s site which estimates what might have been due:

We discover that Matthew didn’t have a formal will. Without such a will, apparently the estate would pass to George.[fn1] Before Matthew took his trip to Scotland, though, he drafted a letter to Mary. In that letter, he tells Mary that he intends to write a will when he returns from Scotland, and he intends for her to be his sole heir. Although the letter was not a will, he had it witnessed by two clients and, with its testamentary intent, the family’s attorney says it will function as a will.

How sensible, right? Maybe not. At dinner, after the letter/will is read, Lord Grantham says:

“I’m not sure how sensible it is. If the letter is valid, the estate will have to pay death duties twice before it reaches little George.”

So what would the death duties on Downton Abbey have been? It depends on the value of the estate. Movoto estimates that it would have been worth $34.7 million in 1920 (which is roughly the right time period). If, in 1920, one pound were worth about $3.50, the estate would have been worth nearly £10 million. At that value, the estate would have been subject to a marginal tax rate of 40%. Matthew’s estate would have owed taxes of nearly £4 million.

Furthermore, despite Matthew’s laudable idealism, pragmatism is an essential part of estate planning:

If he had left it to his son, it would have only faced one level of 40% Estate Duty. But now it goes through the tax system twice, first when he leaves it to Mary, then again when Mary leaves it to George. By failing to plan, the family may ultimately have to pay somewhere around £8 million, rather than the £4 million it would owe had the estate passed straight to George.[fn4]

That said, in the end:

apparently, Mary gets half of the estate. I don’t know what happens to the other half. If it goes to George, that half will only face one level of taxation.

The situation could have been avoided had Matthew taken financial advice early in his marriage and then made a will.

20th century developments

In 1999 —  before Downton AbbeyThe Guardian had an informative article on the sale of great estates in the 20th century.

Patrick Collinson went back to the archives of Country Life magazine — which, incidentally, would have been a staple at Downton — to research the situation in 1900. The first edition published that year featured 13 properties offered by estate agents Knight, Frank and Rutley. Today, the firm is known as Knight Frank. Of those 13, today only one still exists, although it is now an adult residential college. The others had been sold over the century to house developers, hoteliers and golf course developers.

But, as Collinson notes, even in 1900, the estate agents were already advertising Avon Castle in Ringwood, Hampshire, as prime land for houses. And that is exactly what happened. The main house was demolished. Executive homes with swimming pools now occupy the site. Interestingly, in 1999, Knight Frank sold one of these homes for £600,000.

Country Life readers had no idea at the turn of the century how dramatically their lives — and estates — would change. Articles from the 1900 editions focussed on the Boer War and tenant farmers’ housing.

The rest of the century, as we see in Downton Abbey, and continuing in subsequent decades, offered no relief:

The first world war, death duties, the 1930s depression, second world war requisitioning and higher taxes under the first Labour government of 1945-1951 combined to destroy many of the big turn-of-the-century estates. ‘The staff needed to run these huge places were no longer available after 1918, and in the inter-war depression years many of the great houses ran on a shoestring,’ says a spokesman for FPD Savills. After the second world war many gave up the ghost and in remote areas houses were simply demolished.

Dr Pamela Horn’s aforementioned book, which The Telegraph reviewed in February 2015 gave more examples:

In 1918 Sir Francis Ashley-Corbett sold his entire 4,500-acre Everleigh Manor house and estate, in Wiltshire. The previous year Lord Pembroke had sold one of his estates in the same county, and went on to dispose of 8,400 acres of the Wilton estate, also in Wiltshire, with many of his tenant farmers taking the opportunity to buy their holdings.

Horn’s book, The Telegraph says, explains landowners’ mixed fortune during the Great War:

The relative hardship experienced by Britain’s aristocracy during that period began during the First World War itself when conscription led to shortages in the domestic labour needed to maintain their large stately homes.

There were also growing shortages of food and fuel, although the landed gentry were able to grow fruit and vegetables, and raise poultry and livestock on their country estates, unlike the mass of the population.

However, their tenant farmers still had to be paid. Times were difficult and resources, including money, had to be carefully managed.

The Tax Foundation tells us that, in 1923, Highclere Castle — where Downton Abbey was filmed — was nearly crippled by estate tax which was due when the 5th Earl of Carnarvon died:

£500,000 (about $40 million today) in death duties … suggesting an estate valuation of about £1.5 million (about $120 million today). One-third is a pretty hefty tax bite, and led to the dismantling of many English estates as they sold land and possessions to pay the tax bill. Countess Carnarvon held a huge auction of art and jewelry in 1926 to raise enough to keep the house and land intact.

Later, fortunes continued to decline for many. Although we think of 1929’s Wall Street Crash as an American event, The Telegraph says it had repercussions on this side of the pond, too:

The Wall Street Crash of 1929 had a dramatic impact on those members of the aristocracy who had invested heavily in the stock market, in the hope of maintaining their privileged lifestyle following the war.

Sir Arthur and Lady Sybil Colefax lost their life savings – she reinvented herself as a fashionable interior designer in partnership with Peggy Ward, the Countess Munster – while the wealthy heiress Mabelle Wichfeld, who had once employed a retinue of 80 servants at Blair Castle, in Perthshire, was so short of cash on her death in 1933 that her funeral at Savoy Chapel, next to London’s Savoy Hotel, was paid for by friends.

The Daily Beast states that some landowners sold their estates to the military. Chicksands in Bedfordshire served as a hospital during the Great War. Later, the Royal Air Force built a joint RAF and US Air Force base on the estate.

Conclusion

Whilst many, including the BBC — in a recent documentary on the upstairs-downstairs scene of the early 20th century (BBC4, October 2015) — deride the wealthy for having more money and land than they needed, they, too, had family and emotional hardship to cope with.

Everyone’s misfortune is relative.

France has seen many commemorations of war in 2014. Not only is there the beginning of the Great War but also the 70th anniversary of the Normandy Landings. A number of leftist pundits have said, ‘Enough! How many more ceremonies do we need?’

French President François Hollande measured his words carefully this Remembrance Day:

To commemorate is not simply remembering the dead but also a reminder of our duty to work for peace, security, human rights and democracy. Every time that nationalism, hateful ideologies and separatism appear, we should remember the infernal spiral of the summer of 1914, because peace … is at the mercy of fanaticism. This is why we need the military in peacetime.

He went on to defend the French military’s presence in parts of Africa as well as in Iraq. Then, he spoke of French citizens:

Patriotism means never tiring of serving one’s country. Patriotism means talking about history in order to meet the future straight ahead. Patriotism isn’t nostalgia. It is a willingness. A willingness to put France first on the world stage by preserving her identity, that is, [as] a social republic. 

He ended by saying:

France is our inheritance. Europe is our future.

It should be noted that Hollande is the least popular president in French history. His approval rating is 12%. A banner demanding his resignation appeared during the ceremony. But I digress.

France has a more ambivalent remembrance of the Great War than other Allied countries. Perhaps this is because so much of the Western Front is in that country. These recent haunting photos show the battlefields which still bear visible scars from a century ago.

Historian Rémi Dalisson, a professor at the University of Rouen and author of a book about France and Remembrance Day, recently spoke with Le Monde. Dalisson unpacked the baggage surrounding the Great War. A summary and excerpts follow. Although this is French history, it also reflects what others in Allied countries no doubt also felt and partially explains the revisionism we have about the war today.

Dalisson said that November 11 became a national holiday in France in 1922, after four years of political debate. Veterans wanted the day to be an occasion to remember the horrors of the war and contemplate the loss of their comrades:

So, this meant that people would not be working that day and would come together to contemplate the patriotism of those who died for their country. [For the veterans], it was vital that communities come together to consider their [comrades’] sacrifices so that there would never be another war again. This day was intended to become as important as July 14 and Joan of Arc Day.

Le Monde asked about the latter, highjacked by the Front National in recent years, to the extent that many French believe that the authoritarian political party created the day themselves:

It wasn’t invented by the Front National but by the Third Republic on July 10, 1920. Set for the second Sunday in May, it is the national day of patriotism, of courage. Given priority by the Vichy government, it became obsolete after the Second World War … Joan of Arc Day is still widely observed, which says something about the relationship the French have with their commemorations.

This day of patriotism left November 11 as a day of contemplation. This was the official stance of the veterans who were witnessing for the future. There was to be no presidential speech because this was the day to remember those [soldiers] who died. We find this model in other countries, including Germany.

The professor discussed the occasional highjacking of November 11 ceremonies by radical groups on both sides of the political spectrum during the 1920s and 1930s.

Le Monde asked if November 11 was meant to boost the national morale. Dalisson replied:

As with July 14, the idea is not so much a national morale boost as it is unifying around a set of values …

With the ambiguity surrounding November 11, the state wants to fuse the nation together, but around which values? Pacifism or a triumphalist republic? We don’t really know …

Those questions also describe Britain. The important point is that everyone who has worn a poppy, watched war documentaries, watched the Remembrance Sunday ceremony or visited the field of poppies this year at the Tower of London can take away the message they wish. That said — and speaking personally — I hope that they also take time to consider the courage and valour of those who died in battle. Those two values are in short supply these days.

Back now to the interview. Dalisson said that it was French president Valéry Giscard d’Estaing who, in the 1970s, declared November 11 a day of remembrance of those who died not just in the Great War but also in the Second World War and subsequent conflicts. However, this proved controversial not only then but also in the subsequent Mitterand and Chirac administrations; from the 1980s onward, a number of government reports have complained of too many public holidays.

It was only in 2012, when Nicolas Sarkozy revived November 11, that it was once again considered as a national day of remembering the war dead.

Dalisson explained:

I think Giscard was fascinated by the Anglo-Saxons. There’s also a generational element. Giscard was born in 1926, ten years after Mitterand. For that generation, the Great War does not have the same resonance. There was also the idea of Europeanising national holidays, introducing different rituals. Equally, Giscard was following his political philosophy of bringing in change. He observed July 14 at the Bastille. He increased the singing of La Marseillaise. Many people didn’t go [to November 11 commemorations]. The memory of war was just too volatile.

The interviewer returned to discussing the national values and objectives of November 11. Here, Dalisson mentioned revisionism with regard to war dead:

The values of bravery and patriotic sacrifice were already being discussed the day after the Great War ended. For the veterans, what was important was the suffering and remembering the dead, not necessarily republican heroism.

Today, the myth of the Great War soldier has changed: it is no longer of the squaddie as triumphant hero but, rather, a victim … November 11 is becoming a public holiday of peace, like May 8, with a speech about Europe and the future. 

And that describes the speech Hollande gave.

Dalisson added that this year’s commemorations have had an international aspect to them, with dignitaries from non-European countries, e.g. New Zealand, participating. The emphasis, he says, is on the global involvement in the war.

The final question — also of interest to those of us who live in other Western countries — concerned the reasons why our perspective of the Second World War differs to that of the First (emphasis mine):

This is linked to current geopolitics: the rise of nationalism in Hungary, the situation in Ukraine. We have talked at length about the [centenary of the] assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand on June 28, 2014, where Bosnian Serbs refused to participate in official commemorations. The memory of the Great War reopens many wounds of [national] minorities. The problem of nationality, bottled up during the Communist era, is a resurgent one today. In this context, it is difficult to invite heads of state to Paris where the peace treaties were drawn up between 1919 and 1920. The Second World War is much easier to commemorate: we can gather everyone around the table to celebrate the victory over Nazism.  

——————

The next set of posts on the Great War will appear, all being well, in November 1915. They will address how the British attitude towards this conflict changed between 1918 and the 1930s. The books and plays about the war which appeared during and after that decade appear to have shaped our national outlook permanently.

To commemorate the beginning of the Great War in 2014, a dramatic arrangement of 888,246 ceramic popppies — one for every British and colonial serviceman who died between then and 1918 — surrounds the Tower of London.

The poppies have been ‘planted’ over the past several weeks. The last one was put in place on Remembrance Day by 13-year old Army Cadet Harry Hayes in memory of

his great-great-great uncle, Private Patrick Kelly of 1st Bn The Irish Guards, who was killed in action on September 27, 1918, just weeks before the war’s end.

This aerial photograph which appears in the Daily Mail shows the magnitude of the project and gives us a stark reminder of those who died in that war. The memorial has attracted at least 4 million visitors, such that the Tower of London Tube station has been on overload and sometimes closed because it has reached capacity.

Although some on the Left have publicly criticised the field of poppies which cover the moat surrounding the Tower, England’s party leaders — including Labour and Liberal Democrats — have asked that the display remain in place throughout the month of November.

Originally, all of it was to have been dismantled shortly after Remembrance Day. However, two sections — The Wave and The Weeping Window — will stay in place until the end of the month. Arrangements of most of the poppies will be distributed around the nation.

Members of the public were able to purchase a poppy for £25. Proceeds went to the Royal British Legion. Those who purchased poppies will receive them later this year.

The aforementioned article from the Daily Mail explains more and has several magnificent pictures of this fitting tribute to those described on the Cenotaph as ‘The Glorious Dead’. The pictures include both The Weeping Window and The Wave.

Artist Paul Cummins, who calls his work Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red, has done an excellent job of putting the sacrifices of the Great War in public memory. He deserves a Queen’s Honour in the New Year.

Although I cannot find the comment now, one of the commenters on the Daily Mail article said that she took her five-year old granddaughter to tour the display. Afterward, the girl said, ‘That’s a lot of men to leave on the fields of France.’ That little girl understood. This memorial speaks to all of us, no matter where we live — or how young we are.

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