Poppy - Remembrance Day - BobBlahBlah.comThere are a bunch of posts and articles flying around right now… talking about the different colours of Poppies, and which ones different folks support. (Red or White)

I haven’t had an opportunity to read most of the articles, and I don’t know enough about the various discussions and debates to comment on them… and to me, any discussion about this is really quite pointless.

When I see a Red Poppy, I think of my Dad, and my Grandfather.

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alex-buchananMy Grandfather (Alex Buchanan) is a man I never knew, who lived and worked in Singapore.

Before the Second World War, he fought against the injustices of the time, for those with skin of a different colour… at a time when the British Colonials thought nothing of their two-class system.

When the war started, he managed to get his family and wife safely onto a freighter, and stayed behind to help fight the Japanese invasion of Singapore… which didn’t last long.  All the guns were fixed… pointing out to sea.  The Japanese invaded through the mainland, and Singapore quickly surrendered.

My Grandfather spent the remainder of his life in Changi Prisoner of War camp, which is where he died.

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Robert Harold Gray - Entertaining his fellow soldiers, during a moment's respite - Served 1939 to 1946 - throughout Europe and Africa - BobBlahBlah.comOn September 3rd, 1939, my dad was a young man who had just celebrated his 20th birthday a few days earlier.  He had just started working for the BBC in Scotland.  Then, at 11:15 in the morning, British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain declared war on Germany.  A day later, my Dad was a soldier.

Like countless others, he signed up immediately… and through 1945, he was assigned to various units as a radio operator on the front lines… until he was wounded.  Then he would get sent to a hospital, to get patched up, and he would be re-deployed to another unit, on another front.

He fought in Italy, Crete, Sicily and Africa.

He was a young man, named Robert Harold Gray, who lived on Hamilton Road in Rutherglen, Scotland. Funnily enough, he knew three OTHER Robert Grays who lived on the same street in the same town.  Not so funny, was the reality that my dad was the only one of the four who came home alive.  And my dad knew full well that it was only by fluke that he made it home.  There was a particular moment during a battle, when his unit was being overrun by the German Army, and amid the retreat, he let a fellow soldier go ahead of him.  That soldier was immediately killed by a grenade blast.  My Dad was evacuated, with more shrapnel wounds, but lucky to be alive.

After the War ended, he was discharged, and went home to Scotland. The first thing he did was burn his uniform, and put away his medals.

He didn’t ever glorify war or hold a grudge.  One of his eventual best friends when he came to Vancouver, was a German neighbour, who lived across the street, who had been a bomber pilot during the Blitz.

My Dad didn’t sit around telling war stories.  He didn’t like or want to talk about it.

He only allowed us two windows to peek through, to catch a glimpse of the pain he had seen and endured during the war years:

– During my teenage years, on Sunday nights, he would listen to Dame Vera Lynn’s record, over and over.  Often I would come in, as he was singing along to the song “We’ll Meet Again”, to find him with tears in his eyes, lost in another time.

– During this time, he and I started watching Remembrance Day services together… until he passed away in 1999.

Since then, when Remembrance Day comes, I don’t go to the Cenotaph… I observe the Ceremony, spending time with my Dad’s memory, and thinking of the sacrifices that he and his friends made, to try to bring sanity back to the world.

The Poppy to me is a symbol of my Dad’s and Grandfather’s generation… most of them, now gone… who gave us gifts that we still enjoy.  Freedom and choice.

I do not diminish or discount the importance of having discussions and debates about the issues of Veterans’ support, peace-keeping efforts and the role of armies in the modern era.  However, I shall recuse myself from that discussion.  To me, the intent of Remembrance Day is to remember those who gave years of their lives, or in some cases, their actual lives, to fight for the intangible values of Rights and Freedoms, that we now enjoy.

The Poppy doesn’t glorify war.  There is no glory in war.  There is only sacrifice and loss, and that is what we honour on Remembrance Day.

I shall wear my Red Poppy, and with it, cherish spending a moment of Remembrance with my Dad, and the Grandfather I never knew.

We’ll Meet Again

We’ll meet again,
Don’t know where.., don’t know when,
But I know we’ll meet again, some sunny day.

Keep smiling through,
Just like you always do,
Till the blue skies drive the dark clouds, far away.

So will you please say hello,
To the folks that I know,
Tell them I won’t be long,
They’ll be happy to know, that as you saw me go
I was singing this song.

We’ll meet again,
Don’t know where,don’t know when,
But I know we’ll meet again, some sunny day.

We’ll meet again,
Don’t know where, don’t know when,
But I know we’ll meet again, some sunny day.

 

Songwriters: Arthur Wilkinson, Ross Parker, Hugh Childs

Published by: Lyrics © EMI Music Publishing