We all stood united

During this week of Remembrance we have seen services, events and commemorations all over the country and from these untold stories of kindness. The poppy sellers were all volunteers, people gave up their time to take people to events, first aiders volunteered to staff these ceremonies to name but a few. A photo of all the taxi drivers waiting in a queue on Waterloo Bridge to ferry the veterans to the Cenotaph and back again for free I thought was particularly impressive.

What also struck me was that during the ceremony on Remembrance Sunday there were people of so many different ethnicities, the majority of religions, every political party, people from different backgrounds, different areas, different countries, different ages, different social status’s and yet everyone was there for a common purpose to remember the glorious dead and also to learn from the horror of war. If people can all stand at the Cenotaph with this unity then why can’t some of the horrors we see on an almost daily basis benefit from this spirit of unity. Surely all the tales of good deeds must outweigh the bad news stories but yet again it is the stabbings, unrest in the world that seem to make the headlines. If these positive deeds and actions do get mentioned enough then we can all hope that maybe we have learnt something and that the world can unite and the actions of all the war heroes over the decades can continue to unite and bring people together. It is after all the least we can do.

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On the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month….

Armistice Day is on 11 November and is also known as Remembrance Day. It marks the day World War One ended, at 11am on the 11th day of the 11th month, in 1918. A two-minute silence is held at 11am to remember the people who have died in wars. Remembrance Sunday is held every year on the second Sunday in November. This was yesterday and there were ceremonies held across the country at war memorials, cenotaphs, churches here in the UK and also abroad. This anniversary isn’t just to remember all those who died in World War One but also those who gave their lives in World War Two, The Falklands War, The Gulf War and also conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq to name but a few.

The first two-minute silence in Britain was held on 11 November 1919, when King George V asked the public to observe a silence at 11am. This was one year after the end of World War One. He made the request so “the thoughts of everyone may be concentrated on reverent remembrance of the glorious dead”.

Last year we featured the hard work of the poppy sellers and how important it was to keep this part of history fresh in our minds and over the last few weeks there have been so many remarkable tales but we couldn’t include an article about the ravages of war without mentioning 93 year old D-Day Veteran Harry Billinge. Harry was featured on the BBC previously and during his interview on the D-Day beaches he brought BBC presenter Naga Munchetty to tears. Harry was determined to raise  £22,442 for a memorial to all those that lost their lives during the D-Day landings. He said £1 for each of those lost servicemen. Hearing the interview with Harry was truly inspirational. To see him collecting money where he lives and his courage and conviction to complete the task was an interview I will never forget. The target has been reached and the memorial that was a dream has been started and is now becoming a reality. Footage of the memorial was shown to Harry for the first time and the emotion was clear to see. The vociferous ex Sapper was literally stunned and lost for words. Harry says he was no hero and that the true heroes were lost in battle. I am sure that all those soldiers would view Harry as a true inspiration and brand him a hero like the rest of the nation appears to have done. Harry Billinge – we think you are a hero.

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Lest We Forget …

This weekend saw commemorations to recognise the centenary of the ending of the First World War.

On Friday evening we attended  “Beyond The Deepening Shadow” at The Tower of London and heard the Last Post played by the lone bugler and saw the lanterns lit in memory of those who gave their lives. A moving and fitting tribute to the fallen and one that will have evoked many memories and thoughts within all generations. It was certainly a powerful symbol of remembrance.

On Sunday the country fell silent for two minutes at 11am as millions of people around the world marked those 100 years since the end of World War 1. Around the country many people paid respect in their own way. We at Banana Crumble attended a gathering at High Beach in Epping Forest, Essex. This is a tradition dating back 99 years, that first Remembrance Day in 1919 when my grandfather attended in memory of his brother who had died at the Somme. On Sunday two of the group were attending for their 70th consecutive year, one of which was my own father Henry Austin. With our Chief Banana, Matt in attendance, it meant that we had three generations of our family at the same event for something that the fourth generation (my grandfather) had started 99 years ago! Henry Austin was the subject of our Banana Chat last week. To read his interview please click here.

I hope that this will continue for generations to come ensuring that we do not indeed forget the incredible feats of bravery carried out during both World Wars.

Lest We Forget – a phrase that encapsulates our desire to remember the past tragedy and sacrifices made by so many young men. The phrase itself originates from a Victorian poem, entitled Recessional, written by Rudyard Kipling in the 19th century.

The full poem:

God of our fathers, known of old, 
Lord of our far-flung battle line, 
Beneath whose awful hand we hold 
Dominion over palm and pine 
Lord God of Hosts, be with us yet, 
Lest we forgetlest we forget! 

The tumult and the shouting dies; 
The Captains and the Kings depart: 
Still stands Thine ancient sacrifice, 
An humble and a contrite heart. 
Lord God of Hosts, be with us yet, 
Lest we forgetlest we forget! 

Far-called our navies melt away; 
On dune and headland sinks the fire: 
Lo, all our pomp of yesterday 
Is one with Nineveh and Tyre! 
Judge of the Nations, spare us yet, 
Lest we forgetlest we forget! 

If, drunk with sight of power, we loose 
Wild tongues that have not Thee in awe, 
Such boastings as the Gentiles use, 
Or lesser breeds without the Law 
Lord God of Hosts, be with us yet, 
Lest we forgetlest we forget! 

For heathen heart that puts her trust 
In reeking tube and iron shard, 
All valiant dust that builds on dust, 
And guarding calls not Thee to guard, 
For frantic boast and foolish word 
Thy Mercy on Thy People, Lord!

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Inspirational poppy seller retires after 97 years …….

The poppy seller is part of our heritage and seen on the streets, particularly around Remembrance Day. We actually featured a poppy seller on our Good News Story back in November.

The Royal British Legion started selling poppies in 1921 and it was in that first year that six year old Rosemary Powell started selling poppies with her mother. Mrs Powell grew up in London close to where the poppies were made. The poppy had a particularly poignant significance for her as she lost her fiancé, her younger brother and three uncles to the horrors of war. Her father was also injured during the Battle of the Somme.

Mrs Powell is reported as saying “We did it in memory of those men who were killed, for their sacrifice.”

Mrs Powell has sold poppies every year since that day, even when living abroad for some of that time. Since 2015 Mrs Powell has been in a Chiswick nursing home but she still continued with her inspirational story by selling poppies to residents, staff and their families.

After 97 years selling and at the grand old age of 103, she has been reported as saying that she is “too old” to sell any more  and that it is time to hand the reigns over to younger sellers. The Royal British Legion celebrated her achievement with a presentation made by a previously injured service man who had benefited from the fundraising.

A truly remarkable story and one that has certainly captured the imagination of us here.


The meaning of the Poppy…

During the First World War (1914–1918) lots of the fighting took place in Western Europe. Land that was once beautiful countryside was turned to muddy landscape after the bombings and the battles that occurred there. Due to the mud and bad conditions, hardly any plants could grow and it soon became a baron landscape.

The only flowers that could grow, were the bright red Flanders poppies and these grew in their thousands. These flowers were associated with the First World War and since this time have been worn as a mark of remembrance for those who have died in battle.

Poppies are currently available all across the country and money raised from the sale of these goes to help The Royal British Legion who in turn help servicemen and their families. We spoke to one such volunteer Karen Fisher from Hornchurch in Essex, who gave up her time to collect donations in her local Sainsbury’s. Karen said

“I met some lovely people with great stories to tell. One old lady told me that her mum worked on the radios in the First World War and that she couldn’t walk past a poppy donation box without putting money in”

It is thanks to these volunteers who give up their time to help raise much needed funds and to keep the emblem of the poppy alive and in the forefront of people’s minds.

Both the English and the German national football teams will be wearing black arm bands bearing the poppy emblem at their friendly match tonight at Wembley as a mark of respect.

Do you know the significance of the poppy?

The RED represents the blood of the fallen and injured soldiers, the BLACK represents the mourning for the soldiers who never returned home and the GREEN leaf represents the grass and crops growing a future prosperity.

How should the poppy be worn?

The leaf should be positioned at 11 o’clock which represents the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month, the time of which WW1 ended. The poppy should also be worn on the left hand side positioned over your heart.


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.

Lest we forget.