14 August 2014

WWI Commemoration

Last week was the 100th anniversary of the beginning of WWI, and there were all kinds of commemorative ceremonies and vigils throughout the UK to mark the occasion. 

My friend, Connie, was visiting me from Utah for a couple days, and we had the opportunity to attend two really wonderful events. The first on Sunday night was a special 'Peace Among Nations' program and candlelight vigil at Lichfield Cathedral. It was incredibly emotive and quite poignant in the way in which it compared the history of the war to the last week of the Savior's life through to His Resurrection. To be honest, I felt the Spirit more strongly during this service than I did in church earlier that day. It was a really powerful experience, and I'm grateful we could go.

The next day, we caught a cab to the National Memorial Arboretum in Alrewas, which is only about 10-15 minutes outside of Lichfield. It is a gorgeous and thought-provoking place full of memorials and monuments to all kinds of causes, groups, places, and events. Obviously many of the memorials are to different groups within the armed forces, but not all. For example, there is a Neonatal Memorial Grove dedicated to babies who were stillborn where families can dedicate a tree to their child, a rose garden dedicated to the Widows of the World Wars, and a pathway dedicated to blind servicemen which is lined with strongly scented plants. So LOTS of memorials to all kinds of things and people. 

If I remember correctly, this monument is dedicated to the Polar Expeditionary crews.

Even though I'm slowly getting better at walking, I'm still fairly limited in both distance and duration, and this place was huge (150+ acres I think). Gratefully, Connie had the foresight to make me borrow a wheelchair when we first got there, because there was no way we could've seen even half of it if I'd been walking.

My favorite memorial was 'Shot at Dawn', which is dedicated to those servicemen who were executed  by the military, mostly for desertion or acts of cowardice. There are 307 posts with the name, rank, age, and branch of service of an individual who was executed. It is a stirring visual, but was even more powerful was hearing about individual stories of some of these men from one of the guides who was there. I call them men, but so many of them were boys, younger than me. And in hearing about their individual experiences it doesn't take long to disparage over the uselessness and senselessness of war. The statue in the middle is of one of the young men who was shot for cowardice. He was 17 years old.

A memorial to paratroopers

There was a river than ran along one side of the grounds. It made for a beautiful walk.


The Royal Air Forces Association. That eagle is made from over 1000 silver-plated feathers... in case you were curious.
The largest and most prominent memorial is to the armed forces more collectively. The names of all those who have died since the end of WWII are inscribed on the inside of the walls. It's rather sobering to see just how full those walls are.

The inside of the walls, where all those names are...

For FHE, the Maces came and met us there after work. We all met up just before the commemorative vigil began. It's times like these when it paid to be a cripple. A front row view, and a seat. Everyone else had to stand. ;) haha 
All the makings of an epic sunset. ;)

Glorious! :D
The ending of a beautiful service
It was an unexpected addition to our plans, but both of these commemoration ceremonies were really special, and I was grateful to be a part of them. I'm not sure this anniversary was even noticed in the USA, let alone marked nationwide as it was here. Being in the UK gave me a unique perspective and a much greater appreciation for the sacrifice of millions.

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