Remember Me

The July/August 2015 Build a Batt Box theme is “Remember Me”.

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In asking the members of my Ravelry group for suggestions they’d like to see in upcoming Batt Boxes, Kate suggested a colour theme that ran a gradient of deep rich reds fading to purples and charcoal with hints of yellow and linked a striking image to show what she meant.

I pondered about this and thought that it would make a great colour way for November and Armistice Day. But looking out of my window a few weeks ago I noticed that the scarlet poppies in my garden were just coming into bloom and I grabbed my camera and trotted outside to take photos.

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The more I thought about it, the more I thought it might be a good theme to do now after all. For many years Remembrance Sunday and Armistice Day have been something I’ve felt keenly about. I remember in November 2000 standing at the cenotaph in our village and watching the elderly folk, some in uniform, remembering people they actually knew and their own experiences during World War II as well as heir childhoods during World War I. My own father was born just before the Second World War and had war memories from childhood and my grandparents from both wars but for so many of us standing there “remembering” – we had nothing to remember. The fact that we owed a debt was unquestionable but to my 21yr old self I was disturbed as to what remembrance truly meant when you have no actual memories yourself. Does wearing one single paper poppy and making a donation seem sufficient? Is it hypocritical to “remember” one day a year only when so many of us have no real idea what war is because we’ve lived in more blessed times?

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About this time I received from my father the family papers that included letters from my Great Uncle to my Grandmother and her sister as children from the Front in 1917 and 1918. He was tragically shot down by Baron von Richthofen (in his red biplane) in early 1918 just before Richhofen himself died and I mentioned this in a previous blog post. My granny kept a memorial to him all her life – the brass plaque awarded to his family in memoriam surrounded by poppies hung on the wall of their home in my childhood and I now have it for safekeeping. She remembered someone she actually knew and loved. I worried that once these people who lived through those times were gone that “remembrance” would become a dusty fragment of history and empty of meaning. I wrote about it and thought about it and read further, looking deeper and deeper in the heart of it.

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Less than a year later the events of 9/11 changed everything.

The terrorist attacks on the Twin Towers (and later the London Underground Bombings of ten years ago today) brought “war” bloodily into western civilian life again and the ensuing engagements in Afghanistan and Iraq took a heavy human toll on armed forces and civilians in a theatre of war, albeit one removed from Britain geographically. However the ever present terror threat has meant that life never feels completely safe despite the vigilance of security services. It has no comparison to the slaughter and deprivation of the World Wars but nevertheless, Remembrance has now been brutally updated and become something that has real meaning to my own generation. I know people who’ve served in Afghan and their friends who were involved involved in airstrikes and roadside IED incidents. The few stories I’ve heard makes me go cold – for anyone touched by these recent conflicts there is plenty to remember.

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As so often happens, things come together when you move towards it. Serendipity is one of the blessings of life. Last year when I was in London I’d hoped to visit the Tower of London but didn’t get time to in my short visit. I so wish I had; I had no idea the display of ceramic poppies that became an iconic visitor attraction later that month and during October would be such a moving tribute to the fallen and I bitterly regret not seeing it. However our town council got together a project to buy 40-something poppies (I forget the exact number just at the moment) from this installation – one for each soldier from our town who lost their lives in the wars as a permanent memorial to the fallen of our area and we donated as part of this excellent idea. At present they’re wrapped up safely awaiting their final position and although I had permission to go and photograph one for this project, I just didn’t manage to find the time this week. I hope to do a piece on them once the memorial is finally installed though.

I recently joined Twitter – something I thought I would never do! I searched for some of the people I knew and “followed” them, including my friend Adam. Adam is married to my childhood best friend Kate and they live in Chorley with their daughter – my only goddaughter. I don’t get up to see them anything like often enough but it’s been nice to see Adam filling up my Twitter feed in recent weeks with his tweets and retweets as part of the Chorley Memorial Project. As well as being a history teacher he is the biographer of Susannah Knight of Chorley and her work with the Chorley Memorial Album. You can have a look at the website link to find out more there and how she determined that the fallen of Chorley would not be forgotten and the importance of peace. I’d already decided to do this theme this month but it was almost like a nice dovetail with this.

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Having ordered the fibres and started work on dyeing them the final piece of “confirmation” if you like came this week when my mum handed me her “Poppy Press”, the news sheet put out by the Royal British Legion. This summer’s edition talks about the upcoming 70th anniversary of VJ Day – Victory in Japan. Those fighting in SE Asia who were captured by the Japanese suffered brutalities for some time after Victory was declared in Europe. I remember a member of our church congregation when I was a child who wore special glasses which looked most peculiar to my 9yr old self. This man’s eyes had been badly damaged by the starvation he’d suffered during his imprisonment by the Japanese. He never spoke of this time – this was the only thing I knew of it, that his health had been badly damaged by his experiences decades before.

Poppy Press talks of the war in the Pacific and the condition endured by these Far East Prisoners of War (FEPOWs) – some of whom survived and some of whom did not in the appalling conditions they were kept in and forced to work under until their liberation after the surrender following the atomic bombs the Allies dropped on Japan. When they got home these brave survivors were too late for the general euphoria and relief after VE Day and largely felt that they had been forgotten by a world that was attempting to move swiftly on from the nightmare of the previous years.

The poppy coloured fibres I’ve dyed and blended for this months box are almost purely reds with some black and charcoal with the hints of yellow.

Merino:

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Bluefaced Leicester dyed in a gradient:

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A poppy-inspired merino gradient batt with touches of tussah silk. Natural Black Alpaca. Charcoal coloured carbonised bamboo (Black diamond bamboo):

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The “blending bits” – soy, ramie, milk protein, tussah silk, silk noil, faux cashmere and firestar:

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And finally the whole box:

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15th August 2015 marks the 70th anniversary of VJ Day and so I’ve decided that I will donate £1.00 from the profit of each box to the Royal British Legion as an extra contribution towards their work ensuring that those who have given their lives in conflicts around the world are not forgotten. So many innocent people caught up in the megalomania of the few on all sides of the conflict – it seems so unbelievable in a peaceful Europe where we are all friends and allies now that it wasn’t always so. However conflict is part of human nature and as long as humans exist then I guess conflict will too. It seems fitting to finish with the FEPOW prayer from the front of Poppy Press:

THE FEPOW PRAYER

by

Cpl. Arthur E. Ogden and Victor Merrett

(Fepows)

And we that are left grow old with the years

Remembering the heartache, the pain and the tears

Hoping and praying that never again

Man will sink to such sorrow and shame

The price that was paid we will always remember

Every day, every month, not just in November.

We Shall Remember Them

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