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Remembering 1916


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#1 George Armstrong Custer

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Posted 08 December 2011 - 09:29 AM

The political debate begins. God help us when how history is interpreted and commemorated becomes an issue of political policy.

George

#2 depaor01

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Posted 08 December 2011 - 11:06 AM

Looking at that report, so far so good :whistle:

I suppose in the case of the "Irish" 1916 it's important that the Irish government is involved as it's the one most likely to be hijacked by the many organisations in Ireland wishing to show themselves as the "true" idealogical successors to the 1916 leaders.
I don't believe commemoration of WWI is as open to contention in the UK - or is it?

#3 roughdiamond

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Posted 08 December 2011 - 12:15 PM

I reckon the problem is unique to Northern Ireland and Eire and frankly is a political non starter for Westminster, groups will commemorate both events as they do EVERY YEAR in the North, it's more apt for the Dail Eireann as they need to decide whether they should commemorate the Somme Anniversary officially or do the same as they have in the past, let those who want to commemorate it, do so.

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#4 George Armstrong Custer

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Posted 08 December 2011 - 12:39 PM

I don't have the local knowledge to comment on the purely Irish aspect of views on how the centenaries of the events of 1916 ought to be marked there, nor whether the Somme and the Easter rising can realistically be reconciled in public commemorations. It does seem to me, however, that there's merit in the suggestion made here that if goverment direction on this is going to be forthcoming, then it might be more appropriate to come from the devolved Assembly of Northern Ireland and the Irish government, rather than Westminster.

As to depaor01's query as to whether there is any contention on the UK mainland as to how the Great War centenaries ought to be commemorated, I think the answer is that we will find thare is. I would be very surprised, for instance, if the centenary of the first day of the Somme doesn't see some kind of campaigns akin to the ludicrous one mounted by the Daily Express on the 90th anniversary, to have Haig's statue in Whitehall melted down as he was a 'murderer' of his own men. I think, too, the element of mourning will be almost totally predominant in commemorations, with little or no recognition or celebration of the achievement of a very dearly bought but necessary victory. You can see the direction of official thinking on this in the comments by Hugo Swire, the Tory Northern Ireland Office Minister in the linked to article, where he states that "as we move towards a decade of anniversaries we should think of commemoration rather than celebration". This is a trend which was objected to by many of the men who actually fought the war a decade or so later, as I noted in another thread some time ago:

The generation which originally established these ceremonies after the Great War - ie the generation who fought and survived it, and those who lost their loved ones to it - had a wider agenda than the tone and formal structure of what has evolved into today's events would suggest. Many of them, indeed, felt that elements of 'their' day had been hijacked and squeezed out. It was not the element of religion per se which Great War front line combat veterans such as Charles Carrington blamed for this so much as an element of officialdom within the British Legion. Carrington and his cronies had happily gone along with a formal element on the early Armistice Days, but considered that this formal remembrance of their chums who didn't make it ought to be followed by a celebratory element in recognition of what they and their mates had achieved and won in such a hard fought and costly manner. That element has been entirely lost today, of course, and many would be surprised to learn that it had ever existed. But it did. Here's Carrington:

"Nothing could have been more decorous than the British Legion when it had united the various groups; too decorous as some old swaddies thought. The first Armistice Day had been a carnival; the second Armistice Day, after its solemn pause at the Two Minutes' Silence which King George V was believed to have initiated, was a day of festivity again. For some years I was one of a group of friends who met, every Armistice Day, at the Cafe Royal for no end of a party, until we began to find ourselves out of key with the new age. Imperceptibly, the Feast-Day became a Fast-Day and one could hardly go brawling on the Sabbath. The do-gooders captured the Armistice, and the British Legion seemed to make its principal outing a day of mourning. To march to the Cenotaph was too much like attending one's own funeral, and I know many old soldiers who found it increasingly discomforting, year by year. We preferred our reunions in private with no pacifist propaganda."

I imagine that the centeneries will continue the predominance of funereal commemoration, which the likes of Carrington and his chums thought told only half of their story, with the impression of futile waste blanketing any hint that there was also an achievement involved.

George

#5 depaor01

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Posted 08 December 2011 - 12:47 PM

Not so cut and dried in the UK evidently. That's a fascinating account of the evolution of remembrance. Food for thought indeed.

#6 KOF

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Posted 08 December 2011 - 05:04 PM

So, would one say in the way we remember the military of our past, society/the state is in fact dis-honouring their memory and achievements?

I myself do find "Remembrance Sunday" a bit uncomfortable. Most of the service is about dourly thanking whichever god for saving us, when it was not gods but men who "save" us time and time again.

Can we do anything about this? Is that way of remembering carved in stone now, as it were. Can we change our ways?

I hope so.

Cheers

Colin (KOF)

#7 truthergw

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Posted 08 December 2011 - 11:22 PM

As George has pointed out, there is room for debate on the mainland. I should have thought that this was also a complex question in the Republic. I can see how the Irish losses in the Great War may be viewed with ambivalence. I am forced to tread very carefully here not least because this is still a live, political issue.

#8 BLee

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Posted 08 December 2011 - 11:55 PM

Whatever form the commemorations of the 1916 Rising take in the Republic, Northern Ireland or the UK I hope they remember the men who died rather than the political issues of then and now.



British Soldiers KIA http://www.irishmeda...rg/gpage32.html


Rebels KIA http://www.irishmedals.org/gpage1.html

#9 depaor01

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Posted 09 December 2011 - 08:15 AM

Whatever form the commemorations of the 1916 Rising take in the Republic, Northern Ireland or the UK I hope they remember the men who died rather than the political issues of then and now.

http://www.irishmedals.org/gpage1.html




Couldn't agree more BLee.

#10 Ken Santa Fe

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Posted 10 December 2011 - 05:38 PM

Won't the final result of the centenary be a cacophony of options and opinions? Naomi Long (MP) says "commemorations need to be organised in 'an inclusive way' otherwise there is a danger of exclusive and triumphalist celebrations." But so what? There is plenty to be exclusive and triumphalist about. Good on the folk who want it that way. Others will say we need to commemorate and so some will celebrate and vice versa. For me the principle danger to avoid is letting politicians co-opt the anniversaries for their own ends. The way to do that is to know that's what politicians do and ignore accordingly, not to try to and establish policy, and not to support them that do. As soon as a policy exists it opens the door for other groups to flout, ridicule or ignore it.

I hope the real effect of the anniversaries is to re-open the entire examination of The Great War to large numbers who haven't been sufficiently exposed to this fascinating and multi-layered topic. I eagerly await all the new material we'll be asked to soak up and process in my further efforts to understand this central pivot point of world history.

#11 wig

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Posted 01 May 2012 - 06:56 AM

Link here to suggestions for commiseration:

http://broadsidesdot...2012/04/25/357/