Remembrance in Germany

Christ Church Anglican Church, Düsseldorf.  Arguably, a little piece of England in Germany.  Certainly, a brief look round the church would show its garrison church background, with regimental and corps plaques all around, a throwback to the days when it was the garrison church for Caernafon Barracks, 1951-1986.

On Sunday 9th November the British and Commonwealth mark Remembrance Day, a very solemn day.  In the UK remembrance is marked by a two-minute silence dead on 11am, as well as most people wearing poppies for the fortnight leading up to 11 November.  Remembrance is particularly poignant this year, as WWI started 100 years ago.  I believe there are two WWI veterans still alive, one in Australia, the other in Germany.

Let’s be clear about one thing.  Remembrance Day is not about jingoistic “we won, you lost, ha ha ha” celebrations.  We remember those who made the ultimate sacrifice, the men and women who lay down their lives that others might be free.  Never forget this statistic: there has not been a year since 1945 when a British soldier has not lost their life on operations in:

  • Korea
  • Suez
  • Cyprus
  • Northern Ireland
  • The South Atlantic
  • Iraq
  • Afghanistan

and probably many more conflicts that have slipped my mind.

But how do we do remembrance in Germany?  Bearing in mind that Christ Church has a multinational congregation including:

  • British
  • Norwegians
  • Finns
  • Ukrainians
  • Indians
  • Canadians
  • Japanese
  • Germans
  • Americans
  • Dutch
  • Thais

etc, etc, all with differing traditions and ways of looking at remembrance.

In previous years, we’ve kept it fairly low-key, solemn and understated and as un-military as possible.  Admittedly it’s probably the only service I normally come to in Sunday best, including corps tie.  (Given that I speak Russian, I’ll leave it to your imagination in which corps I served, albeit as a Territorial.)  We have traditionally had members of the congregation laying a wreath on the table in our side chapel, the Peace Chapel, but we don’t have a bugler, drums or cannon going off.  We do, however, stand up and keep a two-minute silence.  And yes, it’s a cliche, but the silence is deafening, and feels like two hours, not two minutes.  This year, we are not laying wreaths, as we want to make the service un-military and as international as possible, with the emphasis on peace.  Not a tree-hugging kind of peace, but one which remembers the sacrifice to achieve peace.  Blessed are the peace-makers, not the peace-lovers.  I myself think of the RAF pilot I met on my interrogator’s course who was subsequently killed in a blue-on-blue incident.  Someone’s husband, someone’s son.

Have a peaceful day, won’t you!




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