On Sunday there were military parades and church services. People gathered at the cenotaph and laid their wreaths of poppies – there and at other cold stone memorials around the country. Ilse learned In Flanders Fields and recited it at her school pageant. Seb and Ben marched with the Scouts. Fliss made garlands of red and black and green. I bought a crocheted poppy from Mrs Roberts, who is raising money for the British Legion, and pinned it to my coat. There was ceremony, and solemnity.

Today is Armistice Day. It is twelve years since the end of the Great War. In that time Ben has grown from four to sixteen, Fliss from two to fourteen. I count the years by them. Seb and Ilse have appeared, from nowhere, because John came home. My brother’s second child has done the same. My sister has married a man she didn’t know existed then, but who came home nonetheless.

Next door, Mrs Ellis still has a cupboard full of her husband’s clothes. She gave a suit, for the first time, to the children’s guy this year. Mrs P works to support Mr P, who came back a different man. Their daughter is a widow. There are empty places in the ranks before the cenotaph, but also in the schools and on the playing fields. Whole generations of dreamed of families have gone missing.

At eleven o’clock this morning Mrs P and I laid down our knives and took off our aprons. I poured two small sherries, in the best cut glass, and set them on the sideboard. For two minutes, the world was hushed.

I don’t know what Mrs P was thinking, but I can guess. I prayed for peace, lasting peace, so that we will never see a conflict like that again. I prayed for Ben and Seb and all the other boys. I prayed for the the mothers and fathers, sisters and brothers, wives and lovers of those who were killed or maimed. I prayed for broken families and dislodged families, whichever nation they belong to. I prayed for those who had fled, and those who have yet to find home again.

Finally, when we were both ready, we raised our glasses to memory and love and hope.

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— November 11, 1930

4 thoughts on “Armistice

  1. This is simply beautiful. And the sentiment is just right for the 30s, with the unimaginable second World War still ahead. As I read it today and think of my own infant grandson, I wonder if he (or even someday a granddaughter) will have to fight in some yet-to-come war. We should all pray for peace, and work for it as we are able.

    • I couldn’t agree more, Karen. We should work for peace as well as pray for it, and try to support those who are suffering as a result of conflict even now.

  2. I think you got the tone just right. I’m sure nobody could have believed in the 30s that there could be another Great War. You read this now and can’t help but be appalled at what was to come.
    I appreciated being reminded of In Flanders Fields. My preferred Armistice poem is For the Fallen. This particular verse is the one you hear time and again, but it never fails to move me:
    They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
    Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
    At the going down of the sun and in the morning
    We will remember them.

  3. Jim

    Hi, I have taken a brief look at other blogs you have posted via other links from this one. These are just so beautiful. I don’t understand what compels you to do this even. I suppose it is a diary inspired by everyday events put into the context of another era and so perhaps I do understand what compels you. Your reflections are wonderful, gentle and I found them very touching; I found myself with tears welling in my eyes as I sat at my office desk. I love how you weave events into the story and I was very proud to see the Poppy image and the reference to Jeanine and her RBL fund raising. Lovely, just lovely. I will continue to follow with interest. Jim

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