The representative uniformed groups paying tribute to our fallen soldiers yesterday were significantly smaller. This was on account of the Covid crisis. Whereas, heretofore these groups usually had full contingents, Remembrance Sunday 2020 featured representations that were limited to only a handful of members. It was a damper, of sorts, on a day that should have been a big celebration of the lives of those who made the ultimate sacrifice for the freedoms that we now enjoy.
For those who have forgotten, Remembrance Sunday is marked on the second Sunday of November of each year, which is the Sunday that is nearest to November 11 – Remembrance Day. That was the date that the armistice was signed – the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month – and the guns fell silent in the European war theatre, after four years of deadly conflict.
As you are aware, many gallant men and women from Antigua and Barbuda went off to battle, and a few became casualties. Yesterday, we memorialised them in a service of thanksgiving to the Almighty. And yes, we could not help but think a paraphrased version of John 15:13: “Greater love had no man than this, that brave men and women laid down their lives for God and country.” We ought never to forget! We will never forget!
Here in Antigua and Barbuda, we have two beautiful cenotaphs – one at the Antigua Grammar School (AGS), paying tribute to the noble and courageous Grammarians who fought and perished in World War I, and the other on Independence Avenue in St. John’s. The following are the names of the boys inscribed on the AGS cenotaph: Francis Herbert Armstrong, George Wheeler Armstrong, James Harvey Bryson, Douglas Hardtman Garling, Archibald Murdoch Hart, Henry James Frederick Holmes, Arthur Worsley Holmes-Court, James Louis Englebert Rey Lake, John Edgar Otto Malone, Ian Donald Roy McDonald, Wentworth Halman France Percival, Kenrick Willoughby Shand, Arthur Lindsay Moore-Shepherd, Richard Malcolm Sisnett Shepherd. Requiescat in pace, brothers!
On the war memorial in St John’s, the following names are inscribed: Dennis John Freeland Bradbury, James Harvey Bryson, Ernest Brookes, Nehemiah Brown, Harrington Doughty Edwards, Donald William Edwards, Douglas Hardtman Garling, James William Nugent Gordon, Archibald Murdoch Hart, Charles Henry, Henry James Frederick Holmes, Arthur Worsley Holmes Court, James Lewis Englebert Lake, Joseph Adolphus Lewis, John Edgar Otto Malone, Ian Donald Roy McDonald, Herman McDonald Mannix, Edward Rectiford Martin, Halman Wentworth Percival Martin, Edward Atwell Pero, William Kenrick Willoughby Shand, Arthur Lindsay Moore Shepherd, Richard Malcolm Sisnett Shepherd, Richard Theophilus White.
May their souls also rest in peace. In remembering them, we ought to be ever mindful not to repeat the actions that brought the world to war, not once, but twice. Remember, folks, if we fail to heed the lessons of history; if we fail to be ever vigilant, the cost to humanity will increase exponentially.
Take a peek, if you will at the great Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae’s poignant memorial and warning/exhortation in his classic, IN FLANDERS FIELD: “In Flanders Fields the poppies grow / Between the crosses row on row / That mark our place; and in the sky / The larks still bravely singing fly / Scarce heard amid gun below / We are the dead. Short days ago / We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow / Loved and were loved, and now we lie / In Flanders Fields / Take up our quarrel with the foe / To you from failing hands we throw / The torch; be yours to hold it high / If ye break faith with us who die / We shall not sleep, though poppies grow / In Flanders Fields.”
Those whose blood was shed; those whose lives were snuffed out, are urging us to take up the fight against hate and poverty and injustice. They have passed the torch of freedom to us; we ought to seize it and hold it high. It is incumbent on us to continue the struggle and the fight, failing which, those who died, would have died in vain, and we’ll return to tyranny. It is the essence of Remembrance Sunday/Remembrance Day.
In his magnum opus, FOR THE FALLEN, Laurence Binyon declares: “They shall grow not old as we who are left grow old / Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn / To the going down of the sun, and in the morning / We will remember them.” Indeed, we will!