A guest post from several-time Luath author, Walter Stephen:
When I was young we called Remembrance Day ‘Armistice Day’, which reminded us that the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month was neither Peace nor Victory, but simply a cease-fire between the Allies and Germany.
With hindsight the Allies were too eager for peace. Had we continued till the 12th hour of the 12th day of the 12th month we would have been well inside Germany. Hitler would never have been able to begin his rise to power in 1929 saying that the German armies had not been defeated in the field and that the sacred German soil had not been defiled by invaders. What if we had fought on? We would have lost more men. Would it have been worth it? One of the many ‘what if?’ questions we can ask about World War I.
It must have been 1947 when my father and I were cycling through Moniaive in Dumfriesshire, when they were having their Armistice Day parade and service. There were no massed bands, no serried ranks of smartly uniformed troops, no visiting dignitaries. All the uniforms that little Moniaive could muster were worn by Scouts
and Guides. It was really quite sad and a cynic would have found plenty of ammunition for smart-aleck remarks. A little lad sounded the ‘Last Post’. A wee bit wobbly – but then we remembered the hundreds of little boys, however wobbly, who died doing their duty. The lone piper tuned up his pipes and began to play ‘The Flowers of the Forest’. A chill went up my spine then, as it does now, as I remember it. As Lewis Grassic Gibbon wrote:
It rose and wept and cried, that crying for the men that fell in battle.
The solitary village piper became the symbol for the 500 pipers who were killed in the First World War and the 600 who were wounded. We heard the grand old words rolling out –
Their Name Liveth for Evermore
They will not grow old as we that are left grow old
– and wondered if they meant anything.