Wear your poppy with pride!

This Sunday marks 100 years since the end of the first world war.  It is hard for me to really imagine what it was like to live all those years ago, but one thing is for sure, every day, I am grateful for the sacrifice that was made back then.

The war began on 28 July 1914.

I remember when the Falklands War started on 2 April 1982. Argentina invaded the Falkland islands over who should own it.  It only lasted 74 days.  I was 13 at the time.  I had only really known about war from our history lessons and what I had read.  I remember feeling a bit scared of what it would mean.  Would my dad have to go off and fight?  Would our house get destroyed?   Everything was going through my head.  Thankfully for us, this war didn’t really impact on us day by day.

Sadly, the same can’t be said for WW1.  Back on that awful day in 1914, the lives of millions of people changed overnight and forever.

The war started because Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his pregnan wife Sophie of Austria was assassinated.   Archduke Franz Ferdinand was the nephew of Emperor Franz Josef and heir to the throne of Austria and Hungary. The assassination was planned by a Serbian terrorist group, called The Black Hand.  The man who shot Franz Ferdinand and his wife was a Bosnian revolutionary named Gavrilo Princip.

The assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand in Sarajevo on 28th June 1914, it triggered a chain of events that resulted in World War 1.  After the assassination, Austria-Hungary threatened war on Serbia. They set out some very high demands that Serbia must meet. Germany sided by Austria-Hungary, while Russia sided with the Serbians. At this point, Europe was at the brink of going to war.

One month after the assassination, on July 28 1914 ,Austria-Hungary declared war on Serbia with the backing of Germany. Germany then declared war on Russia on August 1, and on France on August 3.

On August 4 1914, the German troops marched on France and the route they took went through Belgium. Since Britain had agreed to maintain the neutrality of Belgium, they immediately declared war on Germany.

British and Germany forces first fought at the Battle of Mons in Belgium. This was the first of many battles between Britain and Germany on the Western Front and is when World War 1 started for Britain.

There were 2 sides to the war.  The Triple Ententes (Allied Forces) which was us here in Britain, France, Ireland and Russia.  The other side was known as Central Powers which was Germany and Austria-Hungary.

Many of the countries involved in the first World War had problems with each other before the war, but when Archduke Franz Ferdinand was killed,  Austria-Hungary declared war on Serbia.  Germany declared war on Russia and France not long after.  This followed more and more countries joining in the fight.

The United States didn’t get involved at first, but after a British passenger ship was sunk by a German submarine, killing 128 Americans, pressure from American citizens caused the US government to get involved.   The President at that time, Woodrow Wilson, wanted to avoid a bloody war, but the Germans declared that they would sink any ship that came to Britain.  Woodrow, had no option, but to enter the war to help Europe restore peace

In total 32 countries became involved in the war, including China, Belgium, Italy, Greece, Japan, Montenegro, Liberia, Romania and Portugal.

Over 65 million soldiers went to war.  Over 8 million of them never returning.  Another 21 million were injured.  Those that did return, must have seen and heard some horrific things in their time.  They would never come home the same person as they left!

Conscription

Britain soon realised that they couldn’t continue fighting with just the current voluntary recruits.

You may remember from your history books, Lord Kitchener’s campaign – promoted by his famous “Your Country Needs You” poster.  It was quite successful.  Many men were proud of their country and wanted to fight for it.  Over one million men had enlisted by January 1915.  But this was not enough.  We had already had many casualties.  More men were needed.

The government decided it had no choice.  It had to increase the numbers of soldiers.  The only way to do this was through conscription – compulsory active service.  Parliament was divided but they knew that the French army were suffering, they had no choice.

In January 1916 the Military Service Act was passed. This forced conscription on all single men aged between 18 and 41, but exempted the anyone deemed medically unfit, clergymen, teachers and certain classes of industrial worker.

Men who refused to fight on moral grounds (Conscientious objectors), were also exempt, but were given civilian jobs or non-fighting roles at the front.

A second Act passed in May 1916 extended conscription to married men.

Conscription was not applied to Ireland because of the 1916 Easter Rising however many Irishmen volunteered to fight.

Some boys even lied about their age, to be able to fight for King and Country.  The youngest British soldier was in fact only 12.    Sidney Lewis was one of 250,000 underage soldiers.   Sadly for some, it wasn’t always to have the privilege to fight for King and Country.  For some it was to escape their lives.  How desperate must they have been to feel this was their only option.

You can imagine, this was not popular with some people.  In April 1916, there were demonstrations in Trafalgar Square.  Many men initially didn’t go when they were called up.  In the first year though 1.1 million had enlisted.

The age limit was increased in 1918 to 51.  Even though the war ended in 1918, conscription continued until  1920.  In total, conscription increased the army by 2.4 million.

Can you imagine your father or brother coming home one day, and getting their paper to go to war?  They would have heard what was going on.  They knew that they were possibly going to their death.  As a wife or mother, watching your husband and sons leave, never knowing if they would return.  I’m emotional just thinking about it now.

They could of course write to each other.  In fact over 12 million letters were sent during the war.  Many men were away for many years.  Missing out on seeing their children grow up.  The letters and photos they were sent must have been so precious to them.

Thankfully for Britain, 9 out of 10 soldiers returned.  Sadly, when you know how many died, the same can’t be said for other countries.

Why did the War end?

Britain had blocked all the ports in Germany with its Naval boats.  Germans were starving as supplies couldn’t come through, and their economy was collapsing.  Protestors started asking for the war to end.  Pressure was falling on them.  Something had to change.

The emperor at the time, Kaiser Wilhelm II decided to step down on 9 November 2018.  2 days later, the leaders of both sides met at Compiegne in France.  Here they signed the peace armistice.

Although we celebrate the end of the war on 11 November at 11 am, when it was signed and the fighting stopped, the war didn’t officially end until 28 June 2019.  This was exactly 5 years after Franz Ferdinand was assassinated.

It took 6 months to negotiate the peace treaty before the Treaty of Versailles was finalised.  In this, Germany had to accept full responsibility for starting the war.  They had to surrender their territories and colonies as well as reduce the size of its armies.

Why do we wear a poppy?

We wear a poppy to remember those who have given their lives in battle.  It is said that the poppy was the first flower that grew on the battlefields after World War I ended. It is said that the red of the poppy, is from the blood that filled battlefields.

In the spring of 1915,  after losing his friend in Ypres, a Canadian doctor, Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae was so inspired by the sight of poppies growing in battlefields, he decided to write a poem – ‘In Flanders Fields’. This poem is now famous. Read it and see what you think.  It really captures the feeling, don’t you think?

In Flanders Fields

In Flanders fields the poppies blow

Between the crosses, row on row,

That mark our place; and in the sky

The larks, still bravely singing, fly

Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago

We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,

Loved and were loved, and now we lie,

In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:

To you from failing hands we throw

The torch; be yours to hold it high.

If ye break faith with us who die

We shall not sleep, though poppies grow

In Flanders fields.

 

From then on, the poppy was adopted as a symbol of Remembrance.

How should you wear it?  It varies, whoever you speak to!  Some say men should wear it on the left, and women on the right, like you would a badge or brooch. The Queen wears hers on the left, so maybe not! There are also many people who say that the leaf should point to 11 o’clock.   Whatever the correct way of wearing it is, the important thing is that we do wear it and know why!

You may not know those men who went off and fought for us, but if you dig around in your family history enough, you will find someone in your family that was effected.  Even if you don’t, those brave men fought so you could have the life you have today.

There have been many more wars since this one.  Many more have died because of War,  The poppy is to remember them all.

A couple of years ago I bought my husband a very special poppy from the British Legion.  It was made out of a bullet shell that had been found in the fields in France from the Somme.  With it came a certificate to commemorate a soldier who died.  We don’t know him.  It doesn’t matter.  He still died for us.

My husband wears it every year with pride.

We shall remember

From July to November 2004,  the Tower of London with covered in 888,246 ceramic poppies.  They were created by artists Paul Cummins and Tom Piper.  They were to remember the first full day of  Britain’s involvement in WW1.  Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red was an emotional tribute to all that fought.  My hubby and I both bought one each so we can always look at them and remember.

As in many towns and cities, Warwick too have a display in the main church of St Mary’s.  All the poppies are hand knitted or crochet.  Its amazing how many hours have gone into this.  Some have been sent from countries across the world.  My hubby, stepdaughter and I went for a visit to see it recently.  A church seems the perfect place for it.   If you get a chance, please go and visit this or any other display.

At 11 am on Sunday their will be a 2 minute silence to remember all the fallen soldiers.  What ever you are doing at that time, stop!  Take 2 minutes out of your life to remember!  I always shed a tear.  Writing this blog has raised the same emotion!

Don’t let those brave men and women have died in vain.  Keep them alive in our hearts.  All of them!

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Warwick & The Mop!

So, I actually think I’m one of the luckiest people, to have been born and bred in such a beautiful place as Warwick!

It’s true what they say, you can take the girl out of Warwick, but you can’t take Warwick out of the girl!

I know I am probably going to be accused of seeing my home town in rose coloured specs, but the thousands of tourists that visit it every year, must prove something !

Now when I say I’m a Warwick girl, I really am!

I was born in my parents bedroom, which looked out onto the Lord Leycester Hospital! My bedroom was on the back, facing the garden! Behind our garden wall was Warwick Castle! It doesn’t get more Warwick than that!

Growing up, I have so many fond memories! I’ve never taken any of it for granted. That’s probably why, I found it so hard to move 8 miles out of town 2.5 years ago!

Yes it has changed a lot over the years. There are a lot more houses for one, but the foundation of Warwick is still there!

So what makes it so so special ? Where do I start?

  • Warwick Castle
  • St Mary’s Church
  • Lord Leycester Hospital
  • Mill Street Garden
  • St Nicholas Park
  • Warwick Racecourse
  • River Avon
  • Great canal walks
  • The town centre
  • The Mop

I used to also love the dolls museum, which is now integrated into the Military museum in St Johns.

My grandfather was the Verger at St Paul’s Church, and my grandmother, and later my uncle the church wardens.  Myself and my 2 brothers were members of the church choir, with my brother making head boy and I head girl.

We attended choir practice twice a week, and 2 Sunday services, plus weddings etc.

7 of my mothers brothers, were also active members of the local St John’s Ambulance, as was I.  We would cover many local events such as the race meetings, fetes and charity events.

My grandfather and father were involved in building the bumper cars and ghost trains, that were used at the mop, as well as the helter skelter and some other ride at St Nicholas Park.

So as you can see, my family were all part of the foundation of Warwick in the past, which is probably why it runs through my veins.

As a child, the most visited places for us were the racecourse and the park!

The racecourse was just a few minutes walk away. As we had a dog, it was the perfect place to go for daily walks. I rode my bike around it, and even learnt to drive a car on some land next to it. Sadly that land is now flats!

On race days, we would go down for the last race, when it was free! We used to collect left over glasses. If you were lucky you might even find the odd £1 note on the grass! Accidentally thrown away by someone along with their betting slip!

We used to do our cross country running around the race track at school too!

St Nicholas park was where we spent most of our 6 weeks holiday during the summer when we weren’t away. I don’t know about you, but I only ever remember hot summers back then!

There was an open air paddling pool in the middle. Mum would pack a picnic and off we would go for the day!

I remember just playing and enjoying the outdoors in beautiful weather.

As we lived so close to the castle, we often would walk through the outside of the grounds ! I’d never actually been into it until I worked there!

I was so over the moon to land my first full time job there! It was in the offices and accounts department. We were based just next to the main ‘apartments’.

It was the foundation to who I am now! In those days, everyone who was senior were known as Mr, Miss or Mrs. There was no way I’d acknowledge them by their first names !

I was also made very aware of the importance of talking ‘properly ‘! Thankfully I think I pronounced most words correctly ! In particular ensuring you put an ‘r’ in words like castle, path, grass etc!

One of my fondest memories is Mop time ! Most people outside of the area have never heard of the Mop!

It’s basically a travelling fair, which comes to Warwick for 2 weekends around 12th October every year!

Where we lived at the top of a hill, I could sit in the bay window, and watch all the lorries moving from their temporary home on the racecourse, up to the town centre to assemble their rides!

I remember shouting excitedly to my parents as I watched the ghost train, bumper cars, waltzers etc go up! I couldn’t wait to go up and see them!

I probably have an even greater passion as both my grandfather, and father built ghost trains and bumper car rides !

The first weekend, the Mop was opened by the Lord Mayor at 12 noon on the Saturday. It would run until 10.30/11.00 pm. There was always a pig roast around by the Globe Hotel!

The second week the Mop was open Friday and Saturday from lunch time until about 10.30/11.00 pm. This was called the ‘Runaway Mop’!

We used to save our pocket money, and I also remember my grandparents giving us extra.

We would go up as a family early evening, with our pennies in our purses! Eyes wide open !

I remember the smells like it was yesterday ! Candy floss, toffee apples, hot dogs and burgers ! Even the diesel smelt good from the generators!

Then there was the noises of the rides, and children’s laughter, adults screening as some of the bigger rides went faster and higher! Multi coloured lights and music filled the air! It was a time of pure joy!

Everyone always seemed happy when you walked around ! It seemed to always dry and crisp too !

We would walk around wondering how to spend our money ? The ‘hook a duck’ was always a good one, as you were always guaranteed a prize! In those days you could win goldfish ! Now I know why we had a pond in our garden !!

There were also amusement arcades! My favourite then, and now is still the machine that forms the t.v programme ‘Tipping Point’. In my day though it was pennies or 2p!

Now a days it’s all changed! The rides are bigger and more expensive ! They still have a few old favourites though, such as ‘hook a duck’. You still get the same smells and noises!

To me it’s still magical. It’s been part of Warwick for so long, I hope it never stops !

Here is a whistle stop tour of 2018 !

https://youtu.be/gKZNI6265J4

The History of the Mop

The tradition of Warwick Mop, goes back as far as King Edward III, when he granted a legal charter that it be held in the town centre! This was a time when even the Castle, as it stands now was still being built, and certainly before Lord Leycester was even a twinkle in his daddies eye!

The date is believed to be linked to when harvesting was done, with Stratford Upon Avon having the Mop on the 12th!

So for those of us who think it’s a modern thing, and to some a nuisance, it is steeped in over 700 years of history!

It is said that the first Mops were set up for hiring labourers, and for employers to meet and have fun!

In those days it was different types of stalls, rather than the big rides you associate with fairs today!

Workers would be hired on a trial basis. The runaway Mop, the second weekend, gets its name from the fact that either the employer, or worker, could back out of the arrangement they had made!

The money they earned during that week was then spent on the stalls, or for some, the pub!

No-one really knows for sure where the word ‘Mop’ came from, however it is thought to be linked to a symbol worn by labourers.

The pig roast, or ox as it also was then, provided food as well as warmth. Whilst we still have this tradition now, the money raised is passed on to charities!

Rides came along later with the industrial revolution, as has continued to evolve. In the early days, it would have been peddle power! Now they are so sophisticated.

I for one think it’s important that we keep these traditions alive for generations to come !

The next Mop in Warwick is 19/20 & 26/27 October!

Go along and support it if you can! Even if you don’t like the ride, (I’m not a fan), walk around, listen to the sounds, smell the air and soak in the atmosphere.  Let it take you back over 700 years to a different time.  Ultimately, the purpose of having fun is still there! So open your mind and enjoy it.