For the first time this year the Remembrance Day Service took place without a veteran of World War I. In May, the world’s last known combat veteran of that war, Claude Choules, died in Australia aged 110. It is right that we remember the World Wars of the 20th century which wrought a terrible toll on our nation and on the world. More than 5 million men from Britain served in World War 1 and 44% were either killed or wounded. During World War II more than 60 million people died, 2.5% of the world’s population, including 450,000 British soldiers and civilians.
Remembrance Day is a deeply emotional experience for the veterans as they remember the terrible events of the wars in which they fought. Many of the young men involved in the D-Day landings have never spoken about what they experienced as they saw their friends killed and maimed. It is moving to see these, now elderly men, marching with great dignity as they remember their fallen comrades. Sadly, they are now joined by a younger generation of soldiers who have served in Iraq and Afghanistan and who remember their colleagues who have died.
The men and women who died in the great wars of the last century offered the ultimate sacrifice. They gave their lives in the hope that future generations might live in peace and security. The epitaph carved on the memorial of the 2nd British Division in the cemetery in Kohima, Nagaland, is a moving challenge, “When you go home, tell them of us and say, for their tomorrow we gave our today.” It is right that we remember them.
Christians remember a young man who died, not in war, but on a Cross. On the night before he went to the Cross Jesus shared a meal with his disciples. He took bread and broke it and said, “This is my body, which is broken for you, do this in remembrance of me.” Then he took a cup of wine and said, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood, do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me.” Jesus is the hope of the world. His death and resurrection tower over the sorrows and tragedies of history. Because of him a day will surely come when “they shall neither harm nor destroy, for the earth will be full of the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea.”