Remembrance and Al-Alamein

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November 13th 2011
Published: November 13th 2011
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A Japanese VigilA Japanese VigilA Japanese Vigil

This man stood there like this for the hour it took the sun to rise, practically immobile.
This is only going to be a short entry but i feel it is a necessary one.

It would be a little disrespectful not to note Remembrance Day in this blog, especially as i managed to commemorate in such a unique way this year.

About 15minutes before the sun rose on Friday, I remembered that it was the 11th and therefore Remembrance Day. And it was then, at 5.30am, sitting at the summit of Mount Sinai, listening to an american choir sing 'Hallelujah', the first rays of sun escaping over the horizon to warm our icy extremities and flood the valleys spread below us with light, that i chose to do my minute's silence.

Despite it being a spot famous for religious pilgrimage, i couldn't quite declare the moment spiritual. There were a lot of people milling around, shrieking and taking 19million photos - which ruined the solemnity a little bit. However, although I wasn't moved to tears, as was the woman next to me, I was spellbound by that globe of brilliant light as it broke through a thin layer of cloud and rose up to start the day. It was truly fantastic. Watching the mountains wake
The Yellow LightThe Yellow LightThe Yellow Light

One of my favourite photos.
up and the first touch of the sun bathe everyone's faces in that gorgeous yellow light did make it a special moment. Even after an arduous 3 hour trek to the top, in the middle of the night, a little ill from some dodgy mexican food and with my horrendous balance regularly tested by a variety of boulders - it was worth it. The view was genuinely sublime and i couldn't stop smiling. I felt so small surrounded by so much of Nature's beauty all at once, (we could see both the sun and a full moon opposite each other at one point) and your own insignificance hits home as it dawns on you that the spectacle you are watching is utterly timeless. The sun rises on Mount Sinai with the same majesty every morning, whether i am there to witness it or not. It made me feel special and lucky, speechless and happy all at the same time. So i made sure that during my minutes silence i fervently thanked all the servicemen and women for all the things they have done and continue to do, all the sacrifices they have made and are still making so that today
The Sun on Mount SinaiThe Sun on Mount SinaiThe Sun on Mount Sinai

Me standing on the parapet of an old church at the summit of Mount Sinai just after daybreak.
i can travel around the world and experience such special moments as these.

Our servicemen, both past and present, deserve so much more respect than they are given in the main by our society today and i was incredibly grateful to the British Consulate in Egypt for putting on a free bus to Al-Alamein 3 weeks ago, so that we could all go and pay our respects to the Commonwealth soldiers who sacrificed their lives there during World War II. The War Graves Commission has done a fantastic job there of maintaining a very moving cemetery; rows and rows of young lives given for their countries tirelessly kept pristine by a team of gardeners. This grave inscription particularly moved me - "They rest beyond the speech of human pride, who loved this England and for England died."

It wasn't somewhere you had to agree with all actions taken in war or with the military in general to feel the power of the place. Just the chilling number of lives lost there, so carefully recorded, was enough to make everyone feel humbled. The knowledge that those seemingly endless gravestones covered the bodies of soldiers, who, to a man, had given their lives in the pursuit of justice and our future freedoms, demanded respect and the service itself was a quiet testament to that sentiment, well done with just the right amount of grandeur. The cemetery itself, surrounded by arid desert with an azure blue sea visible from the memorial was aptly described by the Reverend as 'an awesome place' and i feel extremely grateful that we witnessed such a moving spectacle.

I hope to finish this clumsily put entry more eloquently, with a poem my sister Becca and I wrote a few years ago now. It was read out perfectly on Remembrance Day 2006 by Bex in Trafalgar Sq, on national TV and i think it expresses much more articulately at least some of the message i am trying to convey with this entry. And it is Sullivan words, so the content remains faithful to it's author in that sense at least.

There Lie Forgotten Men

They lie there in their thousands
The last rays of sunlight
Catching the white of the gravestones
Lending a poignancy to the moment
Numbering in their thousands they lay
Deserving remembrance
And yet the scarred green fields are empty
Nothing remains
The processions of people vanished with the years
Their sacrifice all but forgotten

She stands there alone
At the edge of the silent place
And she is shocked
New wars brew and these forgotten men
Will play no part in them
The dead silence warns no ears but hers
In great halls in moments of great decision
What they fought for is forsaken
And by days end new gravestones
Appear on the blood red ground

She finds what she seeks
'Sgt John Malley Age 27'
His life brutally ended
And she stands by his grave
But he can give no answers
And she weeps for him
For the empty hole he left behind
And for the new emptiness
Soon to join the black chasm
And her tears join the flood


13th November 2011

Beautifully expressed
It made me cry Meg and that i think says it all.

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