05 November 2007

In Flanders fields the poppies blow

French woman pinning a flower to honour Sikh soldiers arriving in France 1914-courtsey: In Flanders Fields Museum.



The soldiers of the Sikh Regiment, India marching to the front in Flanders, Northern Europe. World War I.

More than 50,000 Indian soldiers died in Flanders along with African, 3000 odd Canadian and many soldiers from other countries. If you go to UK from Brussels by road, you will go to Calais port via Lille city (in France) and then to Dover port (UK) by ferry. It is near this city of Calais in the village of Givenchy that Indian soldires of Lahore division fought against Germans. It is called the Battle of Givenchy 1914.

IN FLANDERS FIELDS
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, Queen’s Own Rifles of Canada


I was living in Flanders two years ago. Historically Flanders meant roughly northern part of France, Belgium and Netherlands. (Flemish speaking Belgium consisting of cities Leuven, Gent, Brugge, Oostend, Antwerp and others) This Deepavali also happens to be Armitice Day. The 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month, when the world war I ended in 1918.

There is a town Shiralakoppa, near my village. I used to go along with my grandparents, on a bullock cart, to see our family doctor. Dr from Udre was a world war veteran. I came to know that he served as a medical doctor in the Indian army, serving in Italy with the allied forces in World War II. All I remember is he was great doctor. I remember him boiling needles to sterilise them and asking about what I play, did I win, who are my friends while he pierced by butt with those thick old needles. It is amazing to know that he was involved in World War.

In India we do not even remember these soldiers who fought and died for us far away from their friends and relatives. We do not even know who they were. I will wear poppy this time in their memory.

~rAGU

1 comment:

  1. Hi ragu,
    It is nice to here that our men fought for peace, in both world wars. I would support you in remembering war veterans, which would also remind us not to repeat that mistake again.
    "Jai Bharatha Mathe"
    "Jai Jawan Jai Kisan"
    Let us work to create a peaceful global Village

    MaNjU,

    ReplyDelete

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