Posts Tagged ‘my Dad’

Flanders Field Poppies

In honor of soldiers on Armistice Day, November 11, the Royal British Legion is recreating the Flanders Field of poppies at the historic Menin Gate memorial at Ypres, France. The poppies are protected from weather, and placed by hand into the field by Legion volunteers. Each one is donated by people with a message they can write on the back.
I sent in a poppy, with a message, that will be placed by hand in the field with all the others for my dad, Ronald Norman Clarke, who served in the Second World War. It was the Great War ending on this day in 1918 that had special significance for him, that seemed to haunt him most with its tragic battlefields. I cannot count how many times he recited the poem “In Flanders Field,” which called up the extraordinary sacrifice of soldiers at Ypres, Passchendaele and the Somme. For Great Britain it meant the loss of a third of their young men, 800,000, accounting for the term “The Lost Generation.” The impact of 800,000 dead if they had been allowed to live—how might the world have been? The question that can’t be answered.

“In Flanders Fields”
by Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae, May 1915 (Second battle of Ypres)

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.


John Masefield, the poet and writer, was at the Battle of the Somme. His account is a famous one. A brief quote from it: “Even outside the trenches, it’s not easy to find one’s way over that blasted moor of mud, from which all landmarks have been blown. Inside the trenches it is almost impossible; one sap looks like another, one communication trench is like another, one blown-in dugout, or corpse, is like another, and all the saps and trenches zigzag and run straight, so that one cannot tell direction. These men, wandering forward, perhaps chasing enemies, from one unknown alley to another, in excitement and danger, far from any possibility of direction or guidance, lost themselves, sometimes half a mile behind the enemy front line.”

The full account, and it is riveting, is at the link here in pdf:


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