14.11.10

tell them of us







I almost didn't bring my camera when we left this morning.

Our plan was a walk in the countryside. We didn't go far: Wimbledon Common. But today is Remembrance Sunday and we arrived just in time for something so profoundly moving, I can't put it in words.

In the centre stood the tall memorial: the cenotaph. Besides a large crowd of the public, there were groups of all kinds of soldiers, children in school uniforms.. For a while now, I've been aware of fashion as uniform: we define who we are by what we wear. As I stood today with the crowd I thought of the weight of these uniforms: the strength, and honour, and pride with which they are worn.

In front of me stood a young woman. Her hair was in a bun, and her nails were in a French manicure, but she was a soldier of some kind, dressed in her uniform of blue jacket, blue trousers, plain black shoes. (I've since been told - thank you 'jelly alien' - it's the uniform of the Air Training Corps, linked to the RAF: Royal Air Force. My dad wanted to be a pilot, and my husband and I have a kind of reverence for the RAF). I felt for her when she put her hand behind her back in the way she was taught, but at first, used the wrong hand. I never saw her face, but I am sure she was beautiful.

I wish I could show you the photos I took of the children, because they were the most moving to me, but my husband said I can't. It's a crazy world, I know, but I can't. But even the children, and the dogs, were silent: everyone sensed this was deeply.. important. Sacred.











And as I stood there, listening to the words, the hymns, watching the soldiers standing so still, I felt transported back in time. The colour seemed to fade, it was as if we were in a sepia photograph. As if I were watching a memory.

It started to rain when the band played God Save the Queen (and I sang out along, out loud and in floods of tears,'my country, tis of thee': the song is the same, only the words have changed). And then, the speaker said these words, (a quote, I later learned, from John Maxwell Edmonds, in 1916, as a suggested epitaph for WWI memorials):

"When You Go Home, Tell Them Of Us And Say: For Their Tomorrow, We Gave Our Today."

11 comments:

styleeast said...

A perfect tribute x

Julia said...

this was lovely, thank you

C said...

That last line just made me tear up. That was beautiful.

Anonymous said...

really beautiful post. thank you.

the style crusader said...

Yikes, Jill - this is really beautiful. Everything about it. I love your comments on the girl with the bun and her nails, that the photos seemed to fade to sepia, and that quote at the very end. Really beautiful and really moving. The events for Remembrance Sunday were just starting as I cycled into work yesterday and I had to go through it all. Felt so gutted that I couldn't stay and take it in. Thanks for posting these, now I feel a bit like I was there. xx

Michele said...

Wow - what an incredible epitaph! SO cool. I always tear up when I stand outside Buckingham Palace & think back to the old pictures of V-Day, with the cheering crowds spilling down the Mall.....
Your post really highlights that that story goes on...... That after the joy there was a deep sorrow, which continues to this day. (If that makes sense....)
Thanks for an incredible post!!
xxo

adrielleroyale said...

Beautiful tribute - I am so grateful for these who gave everything for us! Each time I see any tribute, I get teary eyed and moved! God bless those who have served so faithfully for their country in order to protect their countrymen and women! :))

jellyalien said...

That is the uniform of the Air Training Corps, linked to the RAF :-)

polka dot said...

Really? Thank you: I didn't know. Wow. The RAF... I"ll add it to the post now.

Mat said...

really moving images jil. i have lots of memories of my grandad taking me down the to local parade on remembrance sunday's when i was around 3-8. strength, honor and pride, you said it very well

E is for Eleanor said...

Gosh Jill, reading this late as I catch up, I am moved deeply. That last quote has me in tears, for my grandad who fought and came home from Dunkirk and everyone else we have lost.