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‘Lest We Forget’- Lord Kipling

Every year, we come together to remember the brave men and women of our armed forces that have given their lives defending our country and its people from harm.  The first national act of remembrance in modern times was held on November 11th 1919, one year to the day after the signing of the Armistice that ended the First World War.

People traditionally gather at the Cenotaph in Central London, or at the many thousands of war memorials that can be found in villages, towns and cities throughout the land.   There, husbands, wives, fathers, mothers, sons and daughters are remembered by grateful communities and wreathes of poppies are laid respectfully at these memorials as a mark of respect.

During 1915 after losing a friend in Ypres Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae was inspired by the red poppies growing on the battle fields to write ‘In Flanders Fields’.  It became one of the most popular poems of the war, and the red poppy quickly became known as the symbol of remembrance.

Ever since, the red poppy has been bought and worn with pride by people who understand the real human cost of the freedoms we enjoy today.  Poppies are sold by supporters of the British Legion and the proceeds are used to support veterans, serving soldiers and their families.

The Poppy.

We are very proud this year to have a Poppy designed by a budding young Welsh artist Catherine Robinson. Catherine enjoys painting flowers in their natural habitat, but was inspired for this commission to leave the background blank.

She explains that this is because the poppy is an icon for all ages; an enduring symbol of hope, renewal and rebirth that once emerged out of a ground scarred by blood, suffering and loss.  Whenever brave men and women fall on the field of battle protecting our lives, liberties and freedoms, the timeless red poppy will always be there to remind us of the huge debt of gratitude that we will forever owe them.

The Meaning of Remembrance.

With British servicemen still fighting around the world for their country the meaning of remembrance is different for everyone. We recently had the privilege to speak with Simon Weston CBE, a veteran of the Falklands Conflict in 1982.  He told us what remembrance means to him:

Simon was on the troop ship RFA Sir Galahad at Bluff Cove waiting for permission to disembark when the ship was bombed by Argentine Skyhawk fighters in Bluff Cove.  In what became the worst single incident for the British during the conflict, the explosions left 48 dead and many more badly burned as they tried to escape the inferno that swept through the ship.   Simon escaped with life changing injuries that included third degree burns that covered 46% of his body.

Since then, Simon has gone on to become a media celebrity, inspirational author and tireless charity campaigner.   Simon is living proof that we should not allow our past to negatively impact our future, and we are very honoured that he has agreed to strike some of our new Remembrance sovereigns this year.

The Front Line.

Earlier this year two of The London Mint Office’s Product Managers Catherine Edwards and Rhys Williams embarked on The ‘Frontline Walk’ – a gruelling 100km hike across the Western Front in northern France.  The walk gives people the opportunity to step in the footsteps of the brave men who fought for their country in the First World War.

“It was probably the most physically, mentally and emotionally challenging thing I have ever done but it’s also up there as one of the most amazing experiences! To Walk through Ypres towards the Menin Gate with complete strangers clapping and shouting encouragement was unbelievable!! I attended the last post ceremony before but having walked through so many of the places where those brave men lost their lives and to hear so many heroic stories of these men made it all the more special. To watch members of our team lay wreaths at the ceremony on our behalf was just an indescribable feeling that I’ll keep with me forever”- Rhys Williams, Product Manager

“The Frontline Walk was not just a physical, mental and emotional challenge it was also an amazing experience. One of the most rewarding moments of the trip was the last 2KM of the 100KM where we walked through Ypres towards the Menin Gate. The crowds of people in the street cheered and applauded as we came through gate which gave us all the encouragement and motivation needed for the last stretch. On the whole it was an unforgettable experience and now having walked through so many of the places where those brave men lost their lives it completely changes the way I view our history. This is a feeling that will stay with me forever” – Catherine Edwards, Product Manager.

Rhys and Catherine are raising money for their chosen charity the Army Benevolent Fund. This is the national charity of the British Army and give a lifetime of support to soldiers and veterans of the British Army and their immediate families.

They have already raised £2000 for the charity and hope to have added to this before the end of the year.

Lest we Forget

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.

By Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae