Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Lest we forget

image of the tombstone of a 63 year old Hong Kong resident who volunteered in the second world war against the invasion of the Japanese and who died.Dear Gentle Reader,

This spring your Heroine and your humble scribe explored Normandy, France.

We stopped at many Second World War cemeteries, ones for both Allied Power and Axis Power soldiers. 

It was sobering to walk through row after row of 18, 19, and 20 year old young men who died in the Second World War. 

Thousands of nearly identical, neat markers and memorials have quite an impact; they bring home how many combatants' futures and possibilities were snuffed out in that conflict. The literal loss of youth was poignant.

We recently walked to an old cemetery in Stanley on the back side of Hong Kong.

This was an old British regimental cemetery that had been closed for years and then was re-opened during the Japanese occupation of Hong Kong, from 25 December, 1941, to 15 August, 1945. 

When this cemetery was re-opened, by the Japanese, it was filled with Allied soldiers who died defending Hong Kong and some victims from the civilian internment camp located opposite the graveyard.

The first headstone we saw is pictured in today's post.  It belonged to Private G.E. Cross, of the Hong Kong Volunteer Defence Corps.  

Private Cross died defending Hong Kong. He was 63 years old when he died. 

He is now 65 years dead.

My Dad is in that age range.

Your heroine and I had a long conversation on what was worse, scads of youths dying just as their independent lives began, or older men dying just as they were about to retire and when they should be enjoying the fruits of the labours of their lives.

Obviously, there is no answer.  

I do not believe every war is just, but I believe that there are just wars. There are wars that need to be fought.

It strikes me as monumentally sad, though obvious and necessary, that people lose their lives when they offer them to defend an ideal like their country or their belief system or their philosophy. I grieve for the sacrifices made, and am grateful for the liberties those sacrifices paid for.

Today is the anniversary of the 1918 Armistice of Compiègne. This cease-fire agreement marked the end of the First World War's fighting on the Western Front (between Germany (of the Central Powers) and the Triple Entente Powers (the British Empire, France, and Russia) and the Associated Triple Entente Power, the USA. 

The 1918 Armistice took effect four hours and forty minutes after the last signature was penned to the cease-fire agreement.

Four hours and thirty-eight minutes after the 1918 Armistice was signed a soldier was shot through the heart and died. That soldier was the last soldier killed on the Western Front of the War To End All Wars 

That soldier's name was Private George Lawrence Price. He was a Canadian soldier born in Nova Scotia and conscripted from Saskatchewan. He died in Ville-sur-Haine, France. He was 25 years old when he died. He is now 90 years dead.

Two minutes after Private Price was shot dead the 1918 Armistice declaring the ceasefire took effect. 

The Commonwealth Nations, France, Belgium, Poland, and the USA observe two minutes of silence at 11:00am each November 11 for Private Price and all the other dead of the two World Wars.

Sometimes numbers are useful. This is who we are remembering in addition to Private George Lawrence Price and Private G.E. Cross...

The Great War saw over five and a half million confirmed military deaths for the Entente Powers and over four and million confirmed military deaths for the Central Powers, mostly in brutal trench warfare. Over nine and a half million confirmed military deaths in total.

Twenty years and three months after the War to End All Wars, the Second World War started. 

When World War II was over there were over fourteen million confirmed military deaths for the Allied Powers and over eight million confirmed military deaths for the Axis Powers. Over twenty two million military deaths in total.

Between those two World Wars there were over thirty-two million confirmed military deaths which is about one million less than the total population of Canada. Or about four million less than the total population of California.

Note that I have not enumerated any civilian deaths. 

Total military and civilian deaths for combatant and neutral nations in the First World War are estimated at over eighteen and a half million men, women, boys, girls, and children. 

Total military, civilian, and holocaust deaths for combatant and neutral nations in the World War II are estimated at almost seventy-three million. 

The total confirmed deaths for the two World Wars hovers at almost ninety-two million. 

...

At eleven am on the eleventh day of the eleventh month I remembered two privates amongst all the casualties of the two World Wars. 

I remembered Private George Lawrence Price, the Canadian soldier who was the last soldier to die in France in the War to End All Wars, and Private G.E. Cross, origin unknown to me, who died in Hong Kong a bit more than twenty-four years later during the Second World War. 

And theirs are only two names amongst the thirty-two million military dead or the ninety-two million total dead from the two World Wars.

Lest we forget.

Tschuess,

Chris, Regina, and Pommes

5 comments:

Pica Miel said...

It is very good to remember these histories. Many people have not lived through them and in spite of well-read credit on them, it is different like that, when someone comments on them, since the feeling happens to other one.
Very good this post!!!
Fondness picamiel

Cloudia said...

Aloha Greetings (Miss Kitty says 'meow' to Pommes)
Excellent post, a twisted world-view, a sweet couple & cat, HONG KONG & the word 'cuneiform.'
I'm hooked! I am now following your blog. Can't WAIT for Lunar New Year & Lion dancing!!
Aloha from Waikiki-

Travis Erwin said...

This is the best Veterans Day post I've read all day.

Glennis said...

As is said every day in the New Zealand RSA's ( Returned Servicemens Association)
"At the going down of the sun and in the morning, we will remember them"
Its important to remember.
Greetings from New Zealand.
Where is a photo of the Wonder cat who takes your photos?

Sepiru Chris said...

Glennis,

I agree, it is very important to remember those who have sacrificed.

I also think it is useful to remember, period. Of course that could be my own recognition of both my own mortality and the transience of the impacts that I will leave.

I suspect that my impact will not be as enduring as even Ozymandias', King of Kings', impact. And Percy Bysshe Shelley points out that Ozymandias' impact was not that long lasting, either.

However, you ask where to find a photo of the wonder cat?

A picture of Pommes can be found here... Picture of Pommes I believe he used a self-timer for this photo.

The story of Pommes name can be found here: Story of Pommes' name

Although looking up spiders or cockroaches would likely give you better stories.

I hope that helps. :)

BTW, it is a great country that you come from. I have had the immense pleasure of tramping around Stewart Island, and exploring both the North and South Islands years ago. Or Aotearoa as my clients called it. :)