[Written by Dr Edward Harris]
Belgium and the Western Front are a long way from Bermuda, not only geographically, but now, as the years roll on inexorably, over a century and five years distant since the “Great War”, or First World War, ended on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month, being the 11th of November 1918.
On the 11th and 12th of November 2023, Remembrance Day ceremonies took place throughout Great Britain, the Dependent Territories and former British possessions around the world, to commemorate the Fallen in that War [1914–18]. All contributed personnel to the defence of Britain and the ideals of the Judeo-Christian civilized world, referred to as “the West”, which now includes other countries once the enemy then, or in World War Two [1939–45].
Bermuda lost 125 members of various forces during the two world wars and the Korean War, including one woman. Twice as many died in the horrors of the Western Front and other theatres of the Great War, including men of the Bermuda Militia Artillery [Bermuda Contingent, Royal Garrison Artillery] and the Bermuda Volunteer Rifle Corps. Most of those are buried in the “Fields of Flanders”, that is in the many military cemeteries of France, Belgium and elsewhere. Many have perhaps never been visited by other Bermudians, such as the grave of an aeroplane pilot, seen in Iceland a few years ago.
However, Martin Buckley and his father, Tony, both Bermudaphiles, visited the Menin Gate Memorial in Ypres, Belgium this 11th of November, to lay a wreath on behalf of The Royal Bermuda Regiment Association, of which the former is a member. The wreath of red poppies, the British symbol for the Fallen of World War One and other conflicts, was laid in memory of Bermuda’s two main forces of the two world wars, namely, the BMA and the BVRC.
The Menin Gate is a significant memorial for the many thousands of service personnel for whom there is no known grave. Many, for example, could not immediately be recovered from “No Man’s Land” between enemy trenches until it was too late to identify them. Their names are thus inscribed in the stonework of the Menin Gate: it is important to remember that many, especially from Bermuda and British overseas places were volunteers.
In the words of the poet: “When you go home, tell them of us and say for your tomorrow we gave our today.” Martin Buckley, who lived and worked in Bermuda for ten years recently, kindly paid our respects with his Bermuda wreath at the Menin Gate to those who did not come home: thank you, Martin.
“They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old: Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn. At the going down of the sun and in the morning. We will remember them.”
Martin and Tony Buckley with their wreaths at Ypres in Belgium on 11th of November 2023.
The Buckley wreath dedicated to the Bermuda Militia Artillery and the Bermuda Volunteer Rifle Corps, was placed at the Menin Gate Memorial on 11th of November 2023.
The Menin Gate war memorial at the town of Ypres in Belgium by Marc Ryckaert in August, 2018.