Originally published in the King’s Stanley Magazine.
Pip, Squeak and Wilfred.
I was showing these venerable strip cartoon characters to the congregation as part of my talk on Remembrance Sunday in 2014. Afterwards, a lady who had been born in 1918 told me that was the popular name for the three basic medals given to those who had served in the war. As I write this I am looking at them in their small frame.
The central one is the war medal, with the head of King George V on the front. To the right is a gold medal inscribed, “The Great War for Civilisation 1914-1919”.
The final one on the left is the poignant one. It is star-shaped, with 1914-15 on the front. On the back is the name of my great uncle, who “died of wounds” in Gallipoli.
These three medals were given to his parents after the war. I wonder how they felt? How long did they keep them on display? I imagine they were given to my father because he was named after his uncle. Now I ponder over them 103 years after this unknown relative’s death.
Better than nothing? A constant reminder? Pride in a son’s sacrifice? A badge of honour for the family – “We lost someone as well”?
Three medals on the mantelpiece…
Questions with no answers.
What intrigues me now, however, is that someone, sometime, placed a red tissue poppy leaf in the display case. The poppy for remembrance, perhaps a more powerful and enduring symbol than “Pip, Squeak, and Wilfred.”
In many ways Christianity took a hammering in WW1. Two self- styled Christian nations both with clerics claiming that God was on their side!
Yet there were Christians who could make a connection between the mud and the blood and three crosses on a hill outside Jerusalem around 1900 years previously. Three medals with the poppy leaf for remembrance, medals commemorating sacrifice and death. Three crosses ‘outside a city wall’ with a dying thief’s words imagined by Sydney Carter as, “It’s God they ought to crucify instead of you and me, I said to the carpenter hanging on the tree.”
Remembrance of sacrifice – with thanksgiving and gratitude.
With Christian love,