A View From The Vicarage - November 2018
A few feet from the Great West Door of Westminster Abbey in London is the grave of the Unknown Warrior.
Permanently surrounded by poppies the grave of the Unknown Warrior is the one part of the Abbey floor upon which absolutely nobody at all, not even the Queen or a visiting Head of State, is permitted to walk.
The idea of burying the body of an unknown and un-named soldier from World War 1 is one of the most dramatic and inspirational acts of remembrance that emerged from the shock and horror of a horrendous conflict. The soldier whose remains lie with such honour among the great and the good in Westminster Abbey represents all of those thousands upon thousands of others who had been so appallingly mutilated that they could not be identified, that seemingly endless lists of names carved upon those battlefield memorials which remind us so powerfully of the carnage of World War 1.
The inscription upon the Unknown Warrior’s grave reads “They buried him among the Kings because he had done good toward God and toward his house.” What is true of him is, of course, equally true of all of those gallant young men who left these shores to fight in Europe for the future of Europe and the world.
As we gather at this significant Remembrance-tide a century after the First World War finally came to an end. We give thanks especially for those who left our own streets and fields, those who were educated in our schools, those who’s parents ran our farms, shops, schools and businesses. The men who for some of you are your great uncles, cousins and the rest.
I suspect that for most of us, they are now little more than names but behind each name there is a story; a precious story which needs to be heard. A story of the same excitement and enthusiasm shared by young people today, and yet for those who’s names are recorded all of those ambitions were to be thwarted and that excitement was to be extinguished. Blotted out through the unspeakable and unimaginable horror of war.
As we promise this year, as we do every year, to “remember them” what must that remembrance be? Surely a vital component of our “remembrance of things past” as Marcel Proust described it, is a commitment and a dedication to change the world for the future however insignificant our own contribution may seem to be.
Remembrance should surely call each of us to change our community, our country and our world permanently and for the better.
A change so permanent that no future generations have to undergo the same trauma and annihilation of its excitement and enthusiasm as did those brave yet terrified young men of the First World War or their nephews, sons or cousins who fought in the Second.
The majority of us alive today have, thank God, no experience of the brutality and fear of a World at War. We must nevertheless still work resolutely to ensure that as Marcel Proust put it Remembrance is of “Things Past” and never ever of a future blasted and battle scarred by the mistakes of our present.
With my love and prayers as always