This week on Monday during our Remembrance Service, we were being asked to remember something unusual. We were remembering something that we cannot have any real memory of, which was strange.
When we think about memories we usually think about events which have happened in our own lifetimes. Memories are strange, often older people have vivid memories of events from long ago but cannot remember last week!
We were remembering a time of war and people who lived a long time ago but to whom we owe so much. Remembrance Day isn’t about our memories in the normal sense but about the collective memory of times in the past when the country has needed people to be heroes. During the Great war of 1914-18 and the Second World War of 1939-45, ordinary people volunteered to serve in the armed forces or to help the country in a million ways and we are thankful for their sacrifices. The majority of these people are no longer alive but we owe them a great deal. Since the 1940s, there have been other wars and the country has had an armed service to protect our country at home and to support peace in other countries too. This week we have seen them helping flood victims in this country, keeping people, animals and property safe. These people risk their lives to protect others and this is what we remember too.
I am lucky enough to know two people who lived through World War Two, my Nan Dorothy and her identical twin sister, Kathleen. They are 99 ½ years old. During the war, my Nan trained to be a radiographer. They take pictures of the inside of people’s bodies using x-ray machines. She trained in a London hospital during the Blitz and remembers sheltering in tube stations quite regularly. As she also spoke German, she treated soldiers and prisoners' of war who were from Germany. Her sister, Kathleen was a land girl, farming in Devon and later a member of the WAF (Women’s Air force). They have memories of wartime as clear as day, as they were young women at the time and the memories were vivid. They might not have been in active service on the front line but their work contributed to the war effort at that time. As I say, they have great memories from the 1930s and 1940s but often mix me up with my daughter or my mum. Later memories are more muddled.
As a school we have been looking at memories this year. Learning and remembering go hand in hand. The skill of the teacher is to ensure that lessons are learnt, or remembered. That skills become ones we can do without thinking and knowledge can be brought to mind when needed. Our long-term memory is a storehouse of ideas and grows everyday as connections are made between ideas and events which help them to be remembered and recalled. Our short-term memories are less strong and need help. This is why we often go into a room and don’t know what we were going to do there. Certainly, I do!
For children, Remembrance is linked with the symbol of the poppy. The poppy is used as an emblem for fundraising for ex-service people and their families. Every poppy sold raises money for ex-servicemen and their families through the Royal British Legion. We encourage all our families to buy poppies and support this charity alongside thinking about remembrance. I would like to personally thank all of you who have bought poppies or Royal British Legion goods from school this year.
'They shall not grow old, as we that are left grow old. Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn. At the going down of the sun and in the morning, we will remember them.'