As Remembrance Sunday 2014 approaches, here’s the lyrics to a song by folk singer song writer Eric Bogle, which you can listen to on the White Poppy page of the Peace Pledge Union.
The idea of decoupling Armistice Day, the red poppy and later Remembrance Day from their military culture dates back to 1926, just a few years after the British Legion was persuaded to try using the red poppy as a fundraising tool in Britain.
The Poppy Appeal run by the Royal British Legion is hoping to raise £37 Million for injured service personnel this year. There’s more information on the official web site www.britishlegion.org.uk/get-involved/poppy-appeal and poppies are on sale throughout the UK.
White Poppies, the creation of the Peace Pledge Union, were not intended as an insult to those who died in the First World War – a war in which many of the white poppy supporters lost husbands, brothers, sons and lovers – but a challenge to the continuing drive to war. The following year the newly founded Peace Pledge Union began widespread distribution of the poppies and their annual promotion.
No Man’s Land
Well how do you do, Private Willy McBride,
Do you mind if I sit here down by your graveside?
And rest for a while in the warm summer sun,
I’ve been walking all day and I’m nearly done.
I see by your gravestone you were only 19
When you joined the great fallen in 1916,
Well I hope you died quick, and I hope you died clean
Or, Willy McBride, was it slow and obscene?
Did they Beat the drums slowly, Did they play the fife lowly?
Did they sound the death march as they lowered you down?
Did the bugles sound The Last Post and chorus?
Did the pipes play the Flowers of the Forest?
And did you leave a wife or a sweetheart behind
In some loyal heart, is your memory enshrined?
And though you died back in 1916
To that loyal heart, you are always 19?
Or are you a stranger without even a name,
Forever enshrined behind some glass pane.
In an old photograph, torn and tattered and stained,
And fading to yellow in a brown leather frame?
The sun’s shining down on these green fields of France;
The warm wind blows gently, and the red poppies dance.
The trenches have vanished long under the plough
No gas and no barbed wire, no guns firing now.
But there in this graveyard that’s still No Man’s Land
The countless white crosses in mute witness stand
To man’s blind indifference to his fellow man.
And a whole generation who were butchered and damned.
And I can’t help but wonder, no Willie McBride,
Do all those who lie here know why they died?
Did you really believe hem when they told you ‘The Cause?’
Did you really believe that this war would end wars?
Well the suffering, the sorrow, the glory, the shame
The killing, the dying, it was all done in vain,
For Willie McBride, it a happened again,
And again, and again, and again, and again.
Eric Bogle – www.ericbogle.net
First published on the Charley’s War web site