Thought For The Week – Rev David Jones
I travelled to Colchester on Monday of last week to the 100th birthday celebration of my aunt. It was a long journey but well worth it to see Betty who despite her age looked well and proudly held the message of congratulations from Her Majesty the Queen. There were, as you would expect comings and goings as friends and neighbours joined with us. While all this was going on many of the residents were gathered around the TV watching the 100th Commemoration service for the battle of Passchendaele in another part of the home. I joined with them for a while and the poignancy and the solemnity of that service was obviously having an effect on those who, like my aunt lived in the years following World War 1 and then within some twenty years would experience the turmoil of World War II. Then it came to me that on that same day in July 1917 as a battle that would see carnage and human suffering on such an unprecedented scale a baby girl was being born in Tumble which would be a reason for family joy and happiness.
Little would be known in Tumble or anywhere else in the UK as to the tragic loss of 325,000 allied and 260,000 German casualties and the horrific conditions of heavy rainfall and sea of mud where so many perished. That was due to the press censorship which was according to historians was the order of the day during most of World War 1. The public, anxious to understand the reason for British involvement in the war had to be satisfied with some clumsy propaganda from the governments newly formed Press bureau and the policy was ‘Do nothing, say nothing, keep off the front pages’. David Lloyd George who was soon to become Prime Minister told one newspaper editor that if people knew what was going on in the trenches the war would be stopped immediately through public outcry. Eventually the enormity of the loss of life filtered through and with the photographs and film footage we see today brought home to the British people the extent of the suffering and loss.
Over 300 of the Welsh regiment fell in battle that first day of Passchendaele and the hundreds of thousands who also died were remembered with the honour, dignity and respect they deserved. Following the service and listening to the commentaries on my way home the many acts of courage and self-sacrifice that were remembered by families and friends of those who died in such harsh and cruel conditions were a timely reminder of the courage and bravery of those caught up in this most horrendous of battles. So, with quiet gratitude and thanksgiving we remember those who made that ultimate sacrifice at Passchendaele and in the two world wars and the more recent conflicts; praying at the same time that peace will come to our troubled world and that Jesus the Prince of peace might reign in the hearts of all people.
Happy birthday Auntie Betty your 100th gave me much food for thought!