Prompted by Haiku Heights theme of ‘grass’, I decided to write about the beautiful garden of remembrance I visited in London this week.
Wreathed in fallen leaves
A sea of wooden crosses
And scarlet poppies
Lawned garden of grief
A moving memorial
This week I have been in London, and I was fortunate to be passing Westminster Abbey at just the right time to see an amazing spectacle. Wreaths were being laid to mark all those brave men and women who fought and died in the service of our country. Several members of the Royal Family were there to honour their sacrifice. Movingly the Duke of Edinburgh and Prince Harry laid crosses of remembrance in front of two wooden crosses from the Graves of Unknown British Soldiers from the First and Second World Wars. Every conceivable branch of service was represented by wreaths and crosses of all shapes and sizes. This year there are 388 plots and 100,000 crosses.
There were poignant photos on some of the displays. Particularly moving were the crosses to mark those who have died in recent conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq.
I was very impressed by the huge wreaths made up of hundreds of poppies representing our Army, Navy and Air force. My father and my husband’s father were both in the Navy during WW2. But, I spent a long time searching for the display to commemorate the Durham Light Infantry which my grandfather, Frederick Charles McCluskey, belonged to for almost 40 years. He was born in 1899 and he joined up at the age of 14 years 8 months to fight in the first world war. He was sent to France at the age of 17 as a bugler! He survived that war and went on to fight in the Second World War. He was one of the Desert Rats and fought with the Durham Light Infantry at El Alamein. He wrote an account of that battle, a copy of which I still have.
Grandad never talked about the war but he kept wonderful photo albums of the places he visited during the second world war. It wasn’t until after he died that we read in the newspapers of some of his exploits when they called him a hero:~
“Tyneside war hero, Major Frederick Charles McCluskey who played a leading role in a legendary desert trek to freedom, has died at the age of 88.
In June 1942, he and 200 men from The Durham Light Infantry‘s 9th Battalion evaded fierce enemy fire to escape after being surrounded by a division of Rommel’s desert army at gazzala, North Africa.
They travelled 350 gruelling miles to safety. Major McCluskey, who lived in Milvain Avenue, Benwell fought in both world wars.”
I am very proud of him.