Remembrance – why?


Lonely poppies grow in empty fields

Reminding us, lest we forget,

That war is never far removed from peace, 

Lies too often lurk beneath the truth,   

Love, once lost, is soon transformed to hate, 

And surface beauty often masks the ugly. 

Across those fields where blood did soak the earth,

And death brought silence to the land,

Poppies raised their petals to the sun

As souls of dead men, dancing round their graves.

Poppies waving in a gentle breeze,

Reminding us, lest we forget,

That life is never far away from death,  

And, like the blood-red petals of the flower,

Can be crushed in the blinking of an eye,

By men at war, forced to forget that they are human.

Now ….years later

Fresh, young blood seeps into hard ground

Where buildings once stood proud and tall – now rubble,

Blood not of soldiers, but of crying children,

Tears and wailing echo forth the age-old question – why?

Petals flutter onto shoulders, as silent symbols of hope,

Still reminding us, lest we forget,

That remembrance alone has not yet brought

Everlasting peace. 


I wrote the above poem for our writing group on the subject of poppies. The last line is the focus of this blog. Why? This year’s Remembrance service at the Royal Albert Hall focused not only on the first Great War and WW2, but on subsequent wars, including Korea. My key question is why do world leaders go to war? Why, after all these years, have lessons not been learned? In the context of the current wars in Ukraine and Gaza, war and death is once more a feature of our sad and troubled world. Will it never end?

I am reading a Ken Follett novel, based on historical facts, that features through the eyes of its characters, the chilling tensions between America, Berlin and Russia during the Cold War, and how close the world came to annihilation in the sixties by nuclear bombing. The reason – communism versus capitalism. Why? Was it fear? Why should differing ideologies provoke hatred and mistrust amongst humanity? Where does negotiation and communication fit with the need to deal with difference?

What part does religion play in war? Does it really matter what people believe, or whether they worship as Christians, Muslims, Sikhs, Jews, or any other version of religion? It shouldn’t! Beliefs are surely personal and private to each individual. Why do we attack others who do not worship in the same way? 

So the final line of my poem, asks why our annual remembrance cannot bring lasting peace across the world? Of course, there is no answer to this. I am naive. But let’s consider what it means to be human. Through our language and use of words we have the capacity for reasoning, emotion and love. How different are we to the animals from which we have evolved? Animals fight over their territories, or for power over particular animal groups? They fight through necessity – for survival mainly. Can that be said about warring humans? Do world leaders really wage war merely to survive? Neither ideology, nor power, nor religion can ever be valid reasons to kill. 

So, one question invites another – why has remembrance not brought everlasting peace – and are some humans really much different from the animals we have all descended from? 

War is animal behaviour! 

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