This week, Mr Slater and Mr Waller have led assemblies on the theme of remembrance, reminding us of the importance of this annual act during the two minutes’ silence at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month.
The assembly began and ended with a reading of John McCrae’s famous poem, In Flanders Fields, with its poignant plea from “the dead”:
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.
We were reminded of how Remembrance Day, and the two minutes’ silence, began in 1919 to remember those who had lost their lives in the First World War. Since then, the act of remembrance has expanded to include all those who have sacrificed in conflict, so that we may continue to live in freedom.
The poppy itself was a symbol of peace, as the bright red flowers began to grow from the churned up lifeless battlefields of France and Belgium within days of the ceasefire in 1918. Mr Slater and Mr Waller reminded us of the work of the Royal British Legion, who are supported through the purchasing of poppies for remembrance. The Legion supports former members of the Armed Forces and their families to cope with the impact of their service, which can often be life-changing. Their work, in support of those who served, and their families, is truly remarkable.
We were also reminded to remember those who are sometimes forgotten – those non-white, non-British servicemen and women who gave their lives for our country in the two World Wars. These people made sacrifices for a country they had often never been to, thousands of miles away, so that we can live in freedom today. For example:
- Tens of thousands of East Africans were drafted into a non-combatant Carrier Corps to support the British campaign against the Germans in Africa during the First World War. By October 1917, almost 29,000 of them had died.
- A South African Native Labour Corps provided some 70,000 personnel for service in both Africa and Europe, 616 of whom died when their ship, the Mendi, sank following a collision in the English Channel on 21 February 1917.
- During the Second World War, some 90 West Indian men serving as aircrew with the RAF were decorated for bravery, including 64 DFCs and 7 DSOs
- 90,000 West African soldiers travelled more than 6,000 miles to fight in the Burma campaign against the Japanese in WWII
- By the end of the Second World War the Indian Army, with a strength of over 2.5 million, had become the largest volunteer army in history, and had served on three continents
W e also reflected on those who make sacrifices for us today, in peacetime. The heroic healthcare workers who saw us through the COVID-19 pandemic; the armed forces and emergency services who turn out whenever there is need; those volunteers who give their time and energy to help make our communities better places. You don’t have to give your life for your effort to be remembered.
Finally, our students were asked to think about three things as they mark the two minutes’ silence on Friday:
- Think of something/someone who has sacrificed something for you
- Think of something/someone who has sacrificed something for this country
- Think of something/someone who has sacrificed something for our world
Thank you to Mr Slater and Mr Waller for a really powerful assembly. This remembrance day, who or what will you remember?