Remembrance Sunday

The Lych Gate at St. Cuthbert’s, a War Memorial and a Grade II listed building

The Lych Gate honours the fallen from this parish in both World Wars of the last century. Remembrance Sunday, when the Last Post is played at the memorial, is always the closest Sunday to Remembrance Day itself: the 11th of November.

Dedicated in 1920, with additional names added after WWII, the Lych Gate was renovated in 2006, when, I believe, the benches were also removed to forestall petty vandalism there. Next year will be its centenary.

Last year, shortly later in November, we were touring through northern France on our way home from a lengthy sojourn in Portugal. I wanted to see the memorial at Vimy, a little bit of Canada commemorating what in the ‘war to end all wars’ should have been among the last sacrifices of conflict. The building of that memorial was described so memorably in Canadian novelist Jane Urquhart’s The Stone Carvers. Even knowing of what Jane called ‘the redemptive nature of making art,’ we were unprepared for the scale of the memorial, its ineffable sadness. On a cold misty morning, we walked around the names of the fallen, etched in white marble; the visages of the anguished statues, angels amongst them towering far over our heads, facing upwards, imploring the god above who alone could see their torture, for understanding.

The same sadness must engulf those who will always remember, as they stand silently at the Lych Gate this morning. That a similar list of names from WWII should be inscribed on the panels, supplementing those from WWI, is desperately painful, beyond comprehending.

And yet, though the troubles in Northern Ireland, the Falklands War, the turmoil in Iraq and Afghanistan have delivered their own unconscionable tragedies, so many of us from the baby-boomer generation and onwards, have not known armed conflict. Is there a formula for peaceful co-existence? Is the European peace of the past 70+ years just a blip?

As we work to keep the peace, we dare not ever forget the consequences of war.

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