Today is a day of remembrance in Canada as we celebrate Remembrance Day to honour the fallen soldiers who served this country (in the UK it is known as Armistice Day and Veterans Day in the US). It is celebrated on November 11th to commemorate the end of combat in the first World War (armistice was signed on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month).
I’m always ambiguous when it comes time to celebrate our military history as it seems that so many wars can be traced back to the worst traits of humanity, but it is important to remember the mistakes of the past and hope not to repeat them.
I’d like to mark this day in my own way, with three songs that take very different approaches to the subject.
The first song marks a famous battle of the first World War. The battle of Paschendale is a fitting example to the horror of war, and the terrible losses that come with it. “A British offensive battle against the Germans, lasting from 31 July to 30 November 1917. After 16 weeks of bitter fighting in appalling conditions of rain, mud, and slime, about one-sixth of the initial objective had been gained at a cost of nearly 400,000 British Empire casualties, including 17,000 officers, levelling the entire town. On the other side, nearly 400,000 German soldiers gave their lives defending it.” (Wikipedia) Numerous nations lost huge amount of soldiers at that battle, including Canada, at a time where war was waged face to face in the mud and rain.
Iron Maiden’s “Paschendale” is one of their best epic songs.
In a foreign field he lay
Lonely soldier, unknown grave
On his dying words he prays
Tell the world of Paschendale
Laying low in a blood filled trench
Kill time ’til my very own death
On my face I can feel the falling rain
Never see my friends again
Swear I heard the angels cry
Pray to god no more may die
So that people know the truth
Tell the tale of Paschendale
In Canada, fallen soldiers’ bodies are brought back along a stretch of highway 401 dubbed the “Highway of Heroes”. The Trews wrote a very moving song about it.
The day I shipped out,
They numbered a dozen.
Upon my return,
We’re a hundred or so.
From the coast and the prairies,
I bet they keep coming.
Add one more name from Ontario.
Carry me home down The Highway of Heroes.
People above with their flags flying low.
Carry me softly, down The Highway of Heroes.
True Patriot Love,
There was never more.
And the last song takes a definitely more sarcastic view of war. Most conflicts boils down to what is basically schoolyard bullying on a planetary scale. It is the greed, selfishness and cowardice of the politicians of this world that are, in the end, responsible for these losses. Black Sabbath’s “War Pigs” is a scathing condemnation of the leaders of this world.
Generals gathered in their masses,
Just like witches at black masses.
Evil minds that plot destruction,
Sorcerer of death’s construction.
In the fields the bodies burning,
As the war machine keeps turning.
Death and hatred to mankind,
Poisoning their brainwashed minds.
Oh lord yeah!
Politicians hide themselves away,
They only started the war.
Why should they go out to fight,
They leave that all to the poor.