Friday, November 16, 2012

The Red Poppy, and Remembrance Day, in London on 11.11.11

This past Sunday, the eleventh day of the eleventh month, was Remembrance Day in Britain.  A two minute silence is observed at the eleventh hour, the time when the armistice was declared at the end of World War I, 1918, and the guns stopped firing and the war that tore Europe apart ended.   Of course, as Walter Russell Mead points out...

The consequences of that war were only beginning. In Russia, the Civil War was picking up steam as the Bolsheviks crucified their nation in an agony of confusion and hate. Refugees wandered through Europe, hungry and weak. The coming influenza epidemic would be as deadly as the war. In Germany, the shock of unexpected defeat was about to launch Adolf Hitler on a political career as Benito Mussolini in Italy took stock of the state of his country.
Remembrance Day, then, is to remember those who served, fought, perished far from home, and gave their lives for Britain.

Last year, in 2011, in the afternoon, well after the eleventh hour, I was walking with a British friend near the Mall, by Horse Guards Parade, when I came upon a group waiting for something.  The  Remembrance Day ceremony had ended long before.  The great and good, and the Queen, had gone home hours ago.  The crowds had dispersed.  The media had unplugged and gone to their editing rooms or Sunday lunches.  Crowd barriers had been taken down.  The streets swept... but here they were, this group.

I introduced myself to two women, Sandra Warner and her friend, who told me that a private ceremony was about to take place, and that I should stay for it.  “It’s Prince Charles, he’s about to come and observe remembrance with members of his regiment.  He does this every year, just before dusk.  No one knows he does this. They do it away from the cameras, but I always come to watch.”

I’m grateful to Sandra because the ceremony was like nothing I’d seen in my years in this country, and perhaps like nothing you’ve ever seen.  I’ve tried to explain to my American friends that, though we share the same language, Britain is different.  What’s more, this ceremony, formal, though oddly intimate, showed a rather different Prince Charles than is depicted in the mass media.  You can see him most clearly in the ceremony’s aftermath, after the soldiers and veterans have marched past, the lone figure in the background, standing in front of the Guards Memorial.

Fortunately I had my phone with me, so I’m able to offer a record of this moment of reflection and remembrance now.  The video clip is ten minutes long, and there are some dark patches, for which I’m sorry, but I offer it below (the second clip down) without interruption.  First, though, Sandra Warner explains Remembrance Day and the meaning of the red poppy worn this month on so many lapels. 

Herewith, Prince Charles and members of the Welsh Guards pay tribute to the fallen members of their company, on 11/11/11.

More about Remembrance Day from Walter Russell Mead’s blog, HERE.

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