November 8th, 2020
Service readings - Deuteronomy 8:6-18 and Romans 12:9-21 can be read HERE
(by Marilyn Cannell)
I remember, I remember
The house where I was born
The little window where the sun
Came creeping in at dawn.
I remember, I remember
The roses red and white.
The violets and lily-cups;
Those flowers made of light.
The lilacs where the robins built,
And where my brother set
The laburnum on his birthday;
The tree is living yet.
We all like to remember nice things; pleasant memories, often through rose-coloured glasses.
It is much more difficult to recall times of trouble, times of pain and times of hardship.
Those who experienced the dark days of the Second World War often chose to lock them away.
I know my father did.
There are very few remaining who lived through those times.
The Manx Old Comrades Association,
to which my father and fellow members of the Manx Regiment belonged,
has only two members now.
This morning, with sorrow, pride and gratitude, we remember those men from Michael
whose names are listed on our War Memorial.
Grocers, farriers, gardeners, labourers and apprentices.
Young men who left this island full of hope and excitement and never returned.
We can mark this day in Michael, but in most of Britain, things are very different.
There is no march past of veterans at the Cenotaph;
a socially distanced Festival of Remembrance, and no services in churches.
These too, are dark days.
But we can smile as we remember the achievements of one of the best-known veterans,
Sir captain Tom Moore who brightened our lives during the lockdown, with his heroic walk raising over £30 million pounds.
So, what do we remember, how do we remember – or what can we remember?
On August 15th this year, outside Ramsey Courthouse, we sang songs, danced,
waved flags and ate sandwiches to mark VJ Day.
And I thought...
“What do I know about VJ day, marking the end of the war in the Far East?
No wonder it is called the forgotten War and the forgotten Army
and I think many of my generation are like me.
If you don’t know, you can’t remember – if you don’t know you can’t remember.
What did I know?
Film – The bridge on the River Kwai and it’s catchy theme tune?
As a child I was told that my father’s great uncle Heywood was interned during the war.
Vera Lynn went to entertain the troops in Burma
It involved the Gurkhas
The Kohima Epitaph is connected to it.
"When you go home, tell them of us, and say, for your tomorrows we gave our today."
You will find those words engraved on the Burma Star Memorial
in the National Arboretum at St Johns.
They are also to be found on the memorial in the cemetery of Kohima in North-East India.
The Imperial Japanese army had overrun Hong Kong, Malaya, Singapore and Burma and had their sights set on India.In March 1944 they advanced to the frontiers of India.
The battle fought at Kohima, on an isolated ridge,
where the Allies bravely held out until re-enforcements arrived,
was seen as a turning point in the war.
But I learned a new word this year – The Chindits – named after the leo-gryph Chinthay
– a mythical beast, half lion/half dragon that guards the temples in Burma.
The Chindits or more precisely – The Long Range penetration groups,
comprising British, Indian and the Gurkha rifles – today would be called special operations units.
With supplies dropped from the air, it was their task to live in the jungle, launch surprise attacks, destroy Japanese Communications and blow up railways, in atrocious conditions.
The forgotten Army!
It was only in 1990 that Prince Philip unveiled a memorial to them outside the Ministry of Defence in London. Four soldiers, including a Gurkha were awarded the Victoria Cross.
We salute these men – now that we know what they did!
This year also saw the 80th Anniversary of the Battle of Britain
– the first military campaign fought entirely by Air Forces.
Germany had overwhelmed most of Europe and Britain was next. It was realized that an invasion by sea would be difficult. But if they could demoralize the nation by a bombing campaign to destroy major cities, airfields, heavy industry, ammunition factories ,ports and docks, the way would be clear.
We can only imagine the darkness of the black-out – the huddling in makeshift shelters
– sleeping in the underground – the whine of the aircraft – the flares and explosives –
the thud of collapsing buildings.
In the Isle of Man we were lucky to escape the Blitz, but I have a letter that was sent to my
Mother-in-law from a friend in Liverpool.
I will read you an extract.
“From last Sunday to Monday, it was nine hours, the last two nights we have had 6 hours in bed.
There is a public shelter built on the grass verge about 50 yards from the house and I go there.
It is a sad sight to see men, women and children, and babies, all trying to get a little rest.
I cannot sleep, so I sit and look at them. I think we are supposed to be civilised,
but we have gone back a long long way.
But, I must tell you about my shelter that I am having to build inside my garage.
The new walls will be 9 inches thick, reinforced concrete – roof 8 inches thick, gas proof door,
electric light and heat. I am taking my bed there.
I never thought to sleep where I kept the coal, but I can not go on longer without getting some rest.”
The poet, Edith Sitwell penned her famous poem –
“Still falls the rain” during the bombing of London.
“Still falls the rain –
Dark as the world of man – black as our loss –
Blind as the nineteen hundred and forty nails upon the cross –
Still falls the rain.”
Why should we remember?
We cannot erase the darker parts of our shared history.
As we remember, we acknowledge that our world is flawed
That there have been atrocities and mistakes.
We live in a connected world.
In our shared memories, we pray for a world more tolerant –
A world more humane
A world that hopes for a better future.
Echoes of the Edith Sitwell poem
Still countries are in turmoil
Still there are leaders who seek power
Still there is a huge gap between the rich and the poor
Still ordinary people are collateral damage
Still we fire guns
Still we drop bombs.
Still the rain falls
Still we remember
Still we pray
Still we hope
And we will remember!