11 November 2012, Gibraltar

Only Gibraltar would have two ceremonies to commemorate Armistice Day/Remembrance Sunday.

The first was held at Parliament House at 11am.

Buglers from the Royal Gib Reg

I was surprised there were quite a few people gathered outside the building. Many of them were smartly dressed, a lot in dark colours, and with poppies.

There wasn’t much to see to be honest, and it took around ten minutes.

Fast forward to 12 noon and we had another ceremony at the British War Memorial.

And another two minute silence, marked by a huge gun blast to start and end with.

Perhaps it was to tie in with the 11am two minute silence in the UK.

There was a lot of music. Three verses of Abide with Me is far too much. I think there was Rock of Ages. There was also that ghastly Amazing Grace.

We had the Ode of Remembrance. There was the Lord’s Prayer. There was some religious blessing whereupon all the catholics standing next to me promptly and automatically crossed themselves. I didn’t.

I did wear black. Gibraltar is so small that you are likely to see someone you know. I saw a few people I knew, wearing jeans – and medals. I remember some years ago, at one Festival of Remembrance at the Royal Albert Hall, poor old Diana, Princess of Wales, was wearing something that wasn’t black, maybe it was jewellery or some other accessory. Apparently the queen pointed out that one didn’t do that. One wore black and only black.

For anyone who hasn’t yet read one of my favourite poems, here is Dulce et Decorum Est by Wilfred Owen.

Bent double, like old beggars under sacks,
Knock-kneed, coughing like hags, we cursed through sludge,
Till on the haunting flares we turned our backs
And towards our distant rest began to trudge.
Men marched asleep. Many had lost their boots
But limped on, blood-shod. All went lame; all blind;
Drunk with fatigue; deaf even to the hoots
Of disappointed shells that dropped behind.

GAS! Gas! Quick, boys!– An ecstasy of fumbling,
Fitting the clumsy helmets just in time;
But someone still was yelling out and stumbling
And floundering like a man in fire or lime.–
Dim, through the misty panes and thick green light
As under a green sea, I saw him drowning.

In all my dreams, before my helpless sight,
He plunges at me, guttering, choking, drowning.

If in some smothering dreams you too could pace
Behind the wagon that we flung him in,
And watch the white eyes writhing in his face,
His hanging face, like a devil’s sick of sin;
If you could hear, at every jolt, the blood
Come gargling from the froth-corrupted lungs,
Obscene as cancer, bitter as the cud
Of vile, incurable sores on innocent tongues,–
My friend, you would not tell with such high zest
To children ardent for some desperate glory,
The old Lie: Dulce et decorum est
Pro patria mori.

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Previous roughseas posts:


https://roughseasinthemed.wordpress.com/2007/11/14/armistice-day/


https://roughseasinthemed.wordpress.com/2011/11/11/strange-meeting/

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50 comments on “11 November 2012, Gibraltar

    • Thanks Helen. I wrote over on Clouds, –

      http://cloudsmovingin.wordpress.com/2012/11/11/remembrance-day/

      but after taking the pix today thought it was worth breaking the moratorium on here.

      Of all the authors, playwrights and poets I studied at school, Owen has been the one who has stayed with me. Maybe it’s his graphic imagery, his varied use of style, or just that he doesn’t glorify war at all. I do look for other war poets and have an excellent war poetry book, but I always come back to him.

      Such a poignant end to his life too.

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  1. I would guess having the second ceremony would be to link up with the UK, I can’t see what other reason there would be to do so.

    The more I read that poem, the more poignant it becomes, even more so after googling the Latin translation :-(

    The ceremony looks a far more personal concern compared to the one at the cenotaph, which to me appeared far too much about the bigwigs and not enough about who it should be about.

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    • I don’t know why we have two ceremonies. Maybe to do it at different locations? In fact I could have written about the recent change in venue from the Cross of Sacrifice to the British Memorial but I’ll save that one for next year.

      I forgot to add that ‘it is sweet and glorious to die for your country’. I know the poem so well that I tend to forget to add that translation normally, although I think I did include it in the poetry page. I do think it is a very good poem. It even rhymes! but it doesn’t read like a rhyming poem (if you understand that).

      I think like anything in Gib, because we are so small, everything is more personal and intimate. We did have bigwigs though – the governor, the chief minister, the mayor :) – and the rest of us turned up too. There were a lot of service personnel too but my photos of them were pretty poor with too many heads inthe way :D

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  2. Gib is the first place I’ve heard of having two services in one day. Love this poem, I’m a big fan of Owen. To me, his poetry feels alive.

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    • I don’t know the detail, but I’m guessing the first one is a civic ceremony ie at Parliament House, and maybe the second one is more of a military one, ie at the British War Memorial, plus, the service was conducted in public.

      Always good to find another Owen fan. At one point (A levels) I could recite loads of his poems by heart. You are right, it is so vivid and brings home the horror, or perhaps I should write, ‘the pity’ of war.

      http://www.rjgeib.com/heroes/owen/owen.html

      Another blogger who obviously shares our view about Owen’s work.

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      • It’s strange really, I don’t like war. Although I do like reading war poetry and non-fiction books on the topic. Funnily enough, I also became more acquainted with Owen around the time of my Highers. Must be popular on all national curriculum’s – with good reason!

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        • I share the same sentiments. I don’t like it but the poetry can be brilliant. I don’t like religion (causes too many wars, controversies and discrimination) but produces brilliant art and music. Teaching our youth poetry and the meaning behind it is so important. It rubbed off on me anyway :D

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          • I completely agree with you on religion as a main factor in war, in more recent times we only have to look at Northern Ireland to confirm this. I think religion & politics can ruin people and these so called ‘ideals’ that they are constantly fighting for. Whether it be through art or poetry, it does make the younger generation stop and think about things. Well, it rubbed off me too I guess :)

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          • I think the first time it really sunk in with me was at university when we did a medieval history component about religion and it was nothing but war! Governments use religion as an excuse and people use it as an excuse for discrimination and victimisation. I’m not talking any specific religion, I think the Big Three are all as bad as each other, I’ve got a bit more sympathy with Hinduism and Buddhism, they don’t seem to inflict their views on everyone else – but I may be wrong.

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    • Owen is a classic WW1 British poet (along with Siegfried Sassoon). I should probably write a separate post about him. He died – aged 25 – a week before Armistice Day and as the church bells were ringing to signal the end of the war, his parents received the telegram informing them of their son’s death.

      Conversely I know little about American war poetry. I only know Walt Whitman because of the use of his poetry for the Vaughn Williams cantata, Dona Nobis Pacem.

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  3. Couldn’t stay away for long, could you? We had a lovely church service with some very moving a-v presentations set to moving music, which drew a tear to my eye. It is important to mark these occasions (wearing black or not!) :)

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    • No. And as I said I have been writing on my other blogs. This one tends to take more time though both in research and uploading photos. I figured this was an appropriate occasion to post though.

      The music is what always gets me. I get confused with your veteran days and memorial days and the differing significance. I’ve just looked it up and you have changed your dates (as do we depending on the Sunday or the 11th), and your day is to acknowledge all serving military people. Ours is to remember the dead. It would be much easier if we all stuck to the same day, gave it the same name and agreed what we were doing!

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        • To be honest, I don’t know why people can’t stick with the original intention. Armistice Day sounds so old-fashioned, but that was how it started. Why not go with that? Why not keep it to the 11th and the two minute silence? And, fine to make it more inclusive, ie not just WW1. It can’t be that difficult. This day started as a result of the end of WW1. We commemorate that. And everyone who has served in the armed forces since then and given their life in that service, whether killed or injured. And we take time out to remember their families too.

          Easy.

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  4. Beautiful post for the veterans, I watched some of ours on BBC today, and it can be quite moving. I had a granddad who fought in first WW and my dad in the 2nd. So do relate, even though I a CND follower..;)

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    • I don’t know about grandfathers, but great uncles were in WW1, my father (RN) and uncles (Merchant Navy, RAF, and Army) were in WW2. The one in the RAF was killed. I guess most people of our generation have at least one WW2 death in the family.

      While I am extremely anti-war, especially those caused by power hungry politicians, I also recognise the effort – and lives – that people have sacrificed. I don’t think that should be ignored, so I (or my partner) will turn up to respect that, especially those who had no choice and were conscripted. :(

      Different times, different views, but precious lives were still lost.

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  5. I’m glad you broke your silence to post this, Rough Seas. Such a shocking poem and also one of my favourites. I discovered Owen at university and devoured his work. We have no TV here, so I didn’t watch the cenotaph ceremony. Instead, before church, I stood on a windy hillside in the far north of Scotland for the wreath laying at the local war memorial. So many names from such a small community.

    Last year, before you found my blog, I wrote a post which might interest you about my great-uncle Walter who was killed in Flanders in 1916 at the age of 21.

    http://perpetually-in-transit.blogspot.co.uk/2011/11/they-shall-grow-not-old.html

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    • I’ve not been that silent! I have written on my other blogs – rants on Clouds, posted pix on EveryPic, updated the dogblog and the LandRover blog. But Roughseas is the one that takes the most time as I usually end up doing research, uploading photos, and obviously thinking about the text.

      This seemed a worthwhile day to post, mainly because I had already posted to Clouds and it’s not a blog I post photos to, so it just happened here :D

      I’m amazed at the number of people saying how much they like Owen. Or perhaps that is the result of a British education? I think when you were discovering him at university I was studying him at school. Mid/late seventies. Signs of the times?

      We have no TV either.

      I thought you found my blog!! Either way, your post about your great uncle was very good, I left a comment.

      There is so much to write about war, and it never ends …

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      • So I did – my memory is obviously starting to go! You’re being a bit generous with your estimation of my university dates. :-) I went there in 1965, when you probably hadn’t even started school, and picked up a copy of Owen’s poems in a second-hand bookshop in my first term. I was reading modern languages, so this wasn’t work-related, and was completely stunned by them. I probably know some of them off by heart and it started an interest in WW1 which continues to this day.

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        • Haha!! I was at school then. Probably in Upper Transition. Or maybe I was off for endless weeks due to appendicitis. I started school pretty early, a couple of months past four, probably due to my mother having been a nursery teacher and thinking early education was A Good Thing. Perhaps it was.

          Not only did we do Owen at school but WW1 (and 2) were part of our history O level syllabus so I did have a vague knowledge of it. However in retrospect it was pretty superficial, and I enjoy being able to research more about it through the internet, eg involvement – and deaths – of different countries, which you commented about on a previous post.

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  6. It’s nice to see the formal cermonies and respect & hinour conveyed. We had a rather more different experience at 11am on 11/11… in the middle of a huge, busy, noisy festival… a minute of silence was requested, took a few seconds to filter through the throng and across the distance but it did, and was all the more powerful for it. I stood there in the silence thinking of all those who fought and still fight… so we can live this life. I was really proud of everyone for taking that minute…

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    • One minute or two? And another festival? !!!

      I was surprised today how many people of different ages attended. People of my generation whose parents/grandparents were in the two world wars, I can understand, but younger people turning up, and bringing their children shows that at least the respect and honour continues. Now to do something about it and stop current fighting and death …

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      • Just the one minute, which given the circumstances and surroundings, I thought was good enough, and as you say, all ages & kinds stopped. And yes, only 2 festivals for us this year this year but quite a few other neighbourhoods have them around this time also. When I get time, I’ll post about it on places.

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  7. Nice to hear from you! Enjoyed your post as always. Owen’s ‘Dulce et Decorum’ was used for teaching prac at varsity while working with 13/14 year olds. Always had impact, even with the most disinterested of students.

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    • Hi MBL. How goes Chintsa? I thought this one was worth making the break. What is fascinating is how many people both on here and on Clouds, have made similar comments about Owen’s poetry.

      I’m sure someone else has said on a previous post about using Owen to teach students and, again, how he resonates with everyone. Regardless of the war sentiments, the language and the portrayal of horror, death and disability, there must be a useful way of using his work to engage disaffected young people, and something I think would have met with his approval.

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      • Been a bit rough in Chintsa this year but things have settled and am finding my happy place and my bloggers voice again! Yay for me and thanks for asking. I agree with you that Owen would have approved of his work being used in the way it has been – I did find when teaching that a smatter of horror worked wonders on groups of adolescent boys at times!

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        • Spooky, I just went over to yours before I had even noticed you commented on here again.

          Isn’t that a testimony to how powerful some literature/poetry can be? Also (the writer in me coming out here), words give you the opportunity to create your own visual images.

          Looking forward to more Chinsta posts. WP plays up with notifications so I’ll have to remember to check out via your comments :)

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  8. Nice tribute. Sounds like a wonderful ceremony….it was hardly mentioned in the news on the 11th…But they talked about it on Monday which was the holiday – or actually the day off the shop? Annoying and disturbing.
    (You know I feel that poem is important)

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    • Thanks. Two ceremonies in one day actually.

      It’s never been a day off in either Gib or the UK (to my knowledge), so it’s on the 11th and/or the Sunday.

      I was pleased people turned out. Whatever their clothes. If I had medals I might have worn jeans. I don’t so, felt some respect was needed in a different way.

      It’s not just our dead who need to be remembered, so that was the choice for this year’s poem.

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      • I meant to hope over and leave you a note on that day – but got distracted. Excellent post as always.
        Hope you and all are doing well – Molly is learning manners and is sitting quietly so as not to disturb Pippa…well, for a second anyway…..(remind me how nice dogs are once they stop chewing and quiet down a tad…)

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        • No worries, as I’m not writing on here – apart from that post – any time is fine.

          I’m around on Clouds and EveryPic at the mo, so it’s really here I’m taking a rest from. Sometimes it’s too exhausting to write, research and upload pix. I can write drivel on Clouds (no pix usually) and upload a pic or two to every pic with less text.

          Pippa is good with pups so he wouldn’t mind. It’s when they get older and want to be boss that he isn’t quite so impressed. But he normally loves all the girls anyway, so he loves Molly too. The only thing I will remind you is – keep those shoes out of the way. Once I’d learned that, all dogs were a breeze. Hmmm, Pippa did take a new flip flop I remember.

          Like

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