A Blog by the Editor of The Middle East Journal

Putting Middle Eastern Events in Cultural and Historical Context

Friday, November 11, 2011

The Great War 93 Years On: Remembering on Remembrance Day

Yakup Satar, at left, appeared on this blog previously, last ANZAC Day, in a post on Gallipoli and on the last surviving veterans of the Great War in the Middle East.

When Satar died in 2008, he was 110 years old. He was the last Mehmetchik, the last Ottoman soldier who served in the First World War. Born in the Crimea in 1898, he fought in the Mesopotamian campaign.

Today, on the 93rd anniversary of that moment on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month, a day still marked as a holiday in most of the onetime combatants, whether they call it Remembrance Day, Armistice Day, or in the US these days, Veterans' Day, the last fragile links with what was once known as the Great War are fast disappearing.

A year ago on this day I posted old videos of WWI in the Middle East. On that day, there were three surviving acknowledged veterans of the war still living: two who served the UK and one American.

Today there is only one. Florence Green, 110 years old and living in King's Lynn, Norfolk, England with her daughter, who is only 90. Green joined the Women's RAF in September 1918, at age 17, and served as a mess steward.

May she live long, for when she goes, the men and women who fought the War to End Wars will be gone.

(Note that Wikipedia notes in their page on the last veterans, one unverified American claimant and a 111-year-old Pole who joined after the Armistice. That link also shows the last from each nationality.)

It being a holiday here, though one whose purpose is too often forgotten, I won't be posting further unless something major occurs. I think our British allies (in that war and now) have the best name for the day: Remembrance Day. Of the 65 million or so who served in all the Armies in that war, all but one are gone. Let us remember the War to End Wars, though it didn't. Whatever, exactly, it was about, it seemed the most horrible war in history, until the next one. (They say Kaiser Wilhelm was later asked why the war occurred, and he said, "Damned if I know.") For the Middle East, the war was the birth pangs of most modern states.

For all of those 65 million, and for all veterans of all wars from Troy to Afghanistan (both, you will note, Middle Eastern), at this eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month (and in this 11th year of the century), again, The Last Post:

You may find that a suitable place to click away and meditate. If not, I'll add two modern songs by the Scots/Australian folksinger Eric Bogle which capture the horror and the heroic futility of that war (both sung by Bogle himself, though they've become pub standards):

Late Updates: I should note that the second video was obviously put together by a Canadian veteran and that many of the later scenes are of Canadian troops  in modern wars. Let us all remember, on this Remembrance Day, Dieppe and Juno Beach.

Secondly, in the first song, "Did the Bugles Sing 'Last Post' in Chorus?" should be explained by the first video above. Others may not know what "Did the Pipes Play 'The Flowers of the Forest?'" means. (Bogle pronounces it more like fleurs, I assume the Scots pronunciation.) This is what he refers to (Remembrance Sunday, the Sunday nearest November 11, 2009):

And if you want to know the words, assuming ye can ken the braid lallans Scots (they say it's about Flodden Field in 1513: the Scots dinnae forget, especially where the Sassenach are involved ), here you go (if you can't follow it, lyrics here):

1 comment:

David Mack said...

Thanks for this touching remembrance of all the veterans of all the wars.