Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Lest We Forget

Come November, We Remember

Photographs copyright: DAVID McMAHON


This shot of a major Melbourne landmark was taken about ten days ago. This is the main entrance to Flinders Street Station and it is one of the most photographed sights in the city.

The row of clocks above the entrance portal actually show the next scheduled departure on each suburban train line. Back in the pre-cell phone days, the clocks played an important role in city life, for they were a standard meeting place. Someone just had to give you a specific time and say "We'll meet under the clocks" and hey presto, it worked like magic.

Melburnians wear poppies with pride but I didn't know until I did some research, that the poppy was regarded as a weed because it once grew freely in corn fields. Yet we know them (as our parents' generation knew them) as Flanders poppies - because in that wartime zone of death the blood-red poppies flourished in the trenches and numerous bomb craters.


The image above was shot at the Shrine of Remembrance here in Melbourne - and yes, those are real poppies growing in the shape of a cross. I'd never really thought about it, but the poppies made their appearance in much the same way as eucalypt seeds are released by the heat of Australian bushfires and flourish in the lush ash beds that are completely clear of weeds.

In the same way, poppies grew freely in the Flanders battle zone, where artillery shells, mortars and slivers of shrapnel ploughed the fields in a harvest of sudden death.

This photograph (below) shows an endless array of carefully crafted artificial poppies. Today, these are the poppies we wear in the lapels of our business suits. Even schoolchildren wear poppies and, more importantly, they are taught why they are so significant.

Our parents, who lived through two world wars, wanted not just a symbol to commemorate those who laid down their lives but, more importantly, a symbol to remind us that it should never happen again.


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46 comments:

Kat said...

Wow. The poppies in the cross are amazing. What a reminder!
Great shots and great post. :)

® ♫ The Brit ♪ ® said...

Wonderful poignant post and excellent photos David!
I hope this tradition will be carried on forever and that everyone will always wear their poppies with pride!

pat houseworth said...

Our poppies in the US will be out in full force tomorrow, rememberingn Veterans on their(our) Day.

Moannie said...

Thank you for that post, David. We always have a Remembrance Parade at the Cenataph in London on the Sunday closest to the 11th. And yesterday, on a wonderfully dry and sunny morning, the Queen and the Princes were there watching the marchers and laying wreaths at the foot of the memorial.
There are those who say that enough is enough, but I believe those who died fighting for their country, whether concripts or regulars should never be forgotten.Not to glamourize war, but to remind us all that there are some things worth fighting for.

Crystal Jigsaw said...

Once again, you have astounded us with magnificent photos.

CJ xx

Tide Turn said...

Thanks David; I've seen some of these poppies in situ - been to Ypres and the Somme and located the trench system where my great uncle died on the firing step as a lad of sixteen. Visiting Thiepval memorial was one of the most haunting experiences of my life.

lime said...

i am so glad they are given to the children as well and the children are taught why. at our kids' school they will host a luncheon for military veterans but i think wearing the poppies too would be a good reminder for all of them.

Fat, frumpy and fifty... said...

lovely post, and that poppy images is stunning!

quilly said...

I knew this history, but thank you for the repetition "least we forget" and start to take those old guys passing out the poppies for granted.

david santos said...

Great!!!
I love your creations!!! Excellent photos!!! Congratulations!!!
Have a nice week!!!!!!!!!!!!

GreenJello said...

Great post! I love the shots of the cross and the "field" of poppies.

It is good to remember. And never forget.

Vic Grace said...

Thanks David for this post. Lest we forget

CrazyCath said...

Wonderful post. We should remember, but it is sad that the reason we tell our children (and selves) to remember does not prevent more bloodshed. The world goes on, and we go on as a species, killing eachother.

A sad, mad world indeed.
But a great post and I loved the photos. We used to have a precinct cafe in town which was called "Under the Clock" because that is where it was. :)

Queen-Size funny bone said...

with the symbolism of poppies and war I wonder why they had a field of poppies in the wizard of oz?

Millennium Housewife said...

The reason that so many poppies grew on the battle fields and became such a symbol is that poppies only grow on disturbed ground, so they covered the battle fields but not the surrounding countryside.
We too wear our poppies with pride although they are not nearly so well crafted as yours! Lovely photos as usual David MH x

Akelamalu said...

The Shrine of Remembrance is beautiful David and this is a beautiful post m'dear. x

Maggie May said...

Magnificent post. Magnificent photos.
May people never forget the reason behind Remembrance Day.

ewok1993 said...

What a beautiful post. Thanks for sharing.

Lmerie said...

Beautiful Poppies!. I have picture from my MIL of poppies. Her father was a preacher and they moved often. Her mother always told the kids when that particular picture was hung, they knew it was home. It was hung in my SIL's home when she died and no one else wanted it. I have it and love it!

Mojo said...

I never knew the story behind the poppies growing in the wake of shelling and so forth. Or about the eucalyptus growing the same way for that matter. But it makes perfect sense.

Great post!

Just out of curiosity, do you wear the artificial variety because the real ones are effectively a controlled substance?

Expat mum said...

Even after 19 years in the States, it's still funny not having poppies around. I miss them.

Migs CFL fan said...

Great pics david and very appropriate for this time of year. Well done and Thanks for sharing!

Cheers!
Regina In Pictures

AirmanMom said...

david...beautiful post...around the world-we must never forget!

~AirmanMom returning to her blog...

joan said...

Beautiful photos! I've never seen poppies like that before.

Sylvia K said...

What a beautiful and poignant post! Certainly a time of remembrance for all those who have served their countries and given their lives for us. Thank you for the beautiful photos!

Celebration of Life said...

This is a beautiful post, David; it brought tears to my eyes! The world was at war and we can't forget! We purchase poppys from veterans every year in order to help support their organization. Thank you David in helping us remember in such an eloquent way!
Jo

Hilary said...

Remembrance Day is acknowledged here in Canada too, as I'm sure you know. My son, who attends Royal Military College, along with his squadron, will be part of (our tomorrow's) ceremony in Ottawa. It's quite an honour for him. Thanks for this wonderful post.

fishing guy said...

David: Beautiful captures on your day of remembrance, nicely shown my friend.

Devika said...

Hi David!

i just came to thank you for the comment you dropped at me blog 'Essential Me'. I am on a break there..and not replying to any. Hence thanking you here..

It was so kind of you, and I feel highly honoured by that..:-)

was going through a bad stint when i wrote that..now all seem a passe'

i will come again to browse the blog...

thank you,
wishes!
devika

babooshka said...

This year has been such a resurgence in poppy wearing. In part I think that eductaion through blogging has played it's part, such as this exceptional post.

Yen said...

The flowers are magnificent! Thanks for the wonderful virtual travel!

alicesg said...

Very beautiful photos of the city landmark and the beautiful flowers. Good information too. Happy Tuesday.

Mushy said...

Wow, that last shot stopped me dead in my tracks!

Brit' Gal Sarah said...

Wonderfully appropriate post Davis and I had no idea you did Poppies in AUS like in England

Lee said...

Thank you for this post, David. Those poppies look so much like the paper ones we used to get when I was a kid. A fitting symbol I'm thinking.

Gratitude!

Wren said...

Beautiful post, David. It makes the poppies which "blow between the crosses row on row" much more real, and even more poignant.

Arija said...

I only wish the war to end all wars had done just that, instead, major wars have become more frequent and horrific and in the case of Afghanistan and Iraque with samctioned torture as well. What is humanity coming to?

indicaspecies said...

Good one David, and interesting to read about the significance of poppies.

I posted my part of the present world here:
http://indicainq8.wordpress.com

Cheers
- celine

AphotoAday said...

Those red poppies are spectacular -- we only have the orange-yellow variety out here on the west coast of the US...

A Blog In The Rough said...

Those poppies sure know who to grow despite the harsh conditions. Great photos :)

sandyshares said...

outstanding dialogue and photos sandy

cheshire wife said...

Beautifully written. Nice to see that Australia remembers as well as the UK.

Louise said...

A beautiful and appropriate post. I love the photos, especially the first one.

soulbrush said...

what a glorious photo of the poppies.

womaninawindow said...

Hey, last shot was beautiful. Weird though, when I lived in the States I don't remember ever seeing one poppy. We wear them up here.

Just a Plane Ride Away said...

A very thoughtful post. My daughter was quite moved by the two minutes of silence at her school yesterday. Thanks for stopping by my site.