Despite it having been described at the time as 'being a war to end all wars', before the end of 1939, Great Britain was at war again in Europe against the forces of Adolf Hitler in Germany. Since then, there has been numerous and continuous conflict around the world. Indeed; I often wonder if the world and its leaders really took on board the lessons of the 'First World War'.
As a nation, after the 'First World War', we vowed never to forget the bravery of all soldiers and wartime personnel who died in the conflict each 11th November on the 11th hour by a one minute silence across the nation, along with laying wreaths at cenotaphs and the wearing of the Royal British Legion remembrance poppy.
The remembrance poppy is an artificial flower that has been used since 1921 to commemorate military personnel who have died in all wars. It represents a common or field poppy, Papaver rhoeas. Inspired by the World War I poem 'In Flanders Fields', and promoted by Moina Michael, they were first adopted by the American Legion to commemorate American soldiers killed in that war. They were then adopted by military veterans' groups in parts of the British Empire. Today, they are mostly used in the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia and New Zealand, to commemorate their servicemen and women killed in all conflicts.
I was 'a war baby of the 'Second World War' and was reared with a tremendous pride and undying respect for all of those soldiers and civilians killed in the World wars of 1914-18 and 1939-45. Like millions of others, my mother's favourite singer was the 'Forces Sweetheart', Vera Lynn. Mum would have been immensely proud to have known that years after her death that her oldest child (me), would become good friends with Vera.
When I was growing up after the 'Second World War years', my mother would often listen to Vera Lynn on the radio. Whenever 'The White Cliffs of Dover' came on, I would always ask her about a couple of lines in the song that mentioned a boy called, Jimmy'. "Mum, who's this 'Jimmy' she's singing about?" Mum would reply, "He's you, Billy Forde. He's every boy who lived through the war years!" I've never forgotten that question and answer, and I've never forgotten how mum often changed the name from 'Jimmy' to 'Billy' whenever she sang along with the 'Force's Sweetheart' and I was nearby.
Throughout the world, every country has a particular landmark for its famous city or boundary that informs the traveller they are entering a particular place and tells the native they are 'coming home'. It may be emblematic of either entering a city or a country. For example, in New York, it is the 'Statue of Liberty', in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, it is 'Christ the Redeemer', an Art Deco statue of Jesus Christ, in Paris, it is the Eifel Tower. In Egypt, it is the Pyramids, and in England, it is the 'White Cliffs of Dover'.
Whenever our soldiers fought across the English Channel during the first two World Wars and thought of coming back home, it was the chalky 'White Cliffs of Dover' they first saw in their mind's eye. 'We shall not forget either them or what they fought for.' Love and peace. Bill xxx