They went with songs to the battle, they were young.
Straight of limb, true of eye, steady and aglow.
They were staunch to the end against odds uncounted,
They fell with their faces to the foe.
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.
Laurence Binyon 1914
In the United Kingdom and Commonwealth Nations, Remembrance Sunday is the one closest to when the agreement ending the First World War was signed on November 11, 1918, at 11 a.m.— the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month.
This year’s Armistice Day is particularly poignant as it falls close to the centenary of Canadian troops capturing the village of Passchendaele and bringing the Third Battle of Ypres to an exhausted end on 6th November 1917. The three month-campaign is notorious for being fought in appalling conditions with the battlefields of Flanders churned into thick mud by shellfire and torrential rain, the countryside devastated and blasted into Dante’s Vision of Hell. Over 585,000 – say it aloud: more than half a million – soldiers on all sides of the conflict died, an estimated 42,000 bodies never having been recovered.
The centenary commemorations of 1914 – 1918 continue to be marked by a series of remembrances of specific events. Below are some links if you’d like to find out why the words of Laurence Binyon’s poem, written during the opening year of a war that shocked the world, matter as much now as they did then.