For The Fallen

Laurence Binyon was too old to enlist at the start of the First World War, he turned 45 ten days after the war started. Seven weeks after the war started this poem was published as news of the British casualties began to be reported. The war that everyone thought would be over by Christmas went on for another 4 years and claimed the lives of 65 million people.

Laurence Binyon was born in 1869, I was born in 1969, so there is 100 years between our births so this year 2014 as we remember the 100 anniversary of the start of World War 1 I am the same age as Laurence Binyon. I would be too old to enlist. I am left thinking would I be disappointed I could go to serve my country or would I be relieved. With hindsight, relieved is all I can think I would have felt, but 1914 was a different time. While Laurence was too old to join the army he did join the Red Cross and served as a medical orderly.

I always assumed that this poem was written after the war or at least towards the end of it. I never dreamt it was written right at the start. The horror of trench warfare hadn't really started by September 2014. The battles the British Expeditionary Force had fought in were across open ground and were critical in stopping the German advance. As the front line stretched out from coast to coast the troops dug in and 400 miles of trenches connected the North Sea to the Alps.

Another wrong assumption I had was that the poem was written in the trenches. As Laurence never went to war the poem wasn't written there. It was as he sat above the cliffs in north Cornwall at Pentire Point, near Polzeath. Such beauty in sharp contrast to the subject.

For the Fallen

With proud thanksgiving, a mother for her children,
England mourns for her dead across the sea.
Flesh of her flesh they were, spirit of her spirit,
Fallen in the cause of the free.

Solemn the drums thrill: Death august and royal
Sings sorrow up into immortal spheres.
There is music in the midst of desolation
And a glory that shines upon our tears.

They went with songs to the battle, they were young,
Straight of limb, true of eye, steady and aglow.
They were staunch to the end against odds uncounted,
They fell with their faces to the foe.

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.

They mingle not with their laughing comrades again;
They sit no more at familiar tables of home;
They have no lot in our labour of the day-time;
They sleep beyond England's foam.

But where our desires are and our hopes profound,
Felt as a well-spring that is hidden from sight,
To the innermost heart of their own land they are known
As the stars are known to the Night;

As the stars that shall be bright when we are dust,
Moving in marches upon the heavenly plain,
As the stars that are starry in the time of our darkness,
To the end, to the end, they remain.

by Robert Laurence Binyon
First published 21st September 1914 in The Times

Wanted: Photos of CWL Wartime Recreation Huts and Canteens

During World War 1 and World War 2 the Catholic Women's League setup and ran recreation Huts, canteens and tea vans for the troops all over the world. Very few photos remain and we would love to find some more. Can you help?

If you have and photo's please contact me

God Bless,

CWL ladies in uniform

Mobile Canteen Geldrop, Holland, WWII

Westminster Hut WWI

Homily for the Dedication of the Lateran Basilica and Remembrance Sunday

Homily (sermon) - Remembrance Sunday

Readings for the Dedication of the Lateran Basilica  Year A:
Ezekiel 47:1-2,8-9,12, Psalm 45, 1 Corinthians 3:9-11,16-17, John 2:13-22

[All these readings can be found at for the next few weeks. Remember to scroll down for the readings of the day.]

The Church today is celebrating the dedication of the Lateran Basilica in Rome. The feast is one of unity towards the See of Peter and is celebrated across the world. The readings teach of Christ’s love for His father’s house and Paul describes how Christ built the foundation of the Church, the Church that each one of us is a part of.

We are called to build our Church, to continue to grow our Church. We are the stones, the bricks, the steel and glass, the beams and windows of our Church today. We are building our Church as we were instructed, we are building our Church from our love of God, we are building our Church to serve our world today. Our children will build on us and their children will build on them. The Church therefore always grows, always adapts, and is always ready to face the challenges of the current world.

We may think the world of 2014 has it problems. But 100 years ago the problems the world had were much worse. Since the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand on June 28th 1914 the world had been descending into war. The Great War started on August 1st, and Britain declared war on Germany on August 4th. One hundred years ago today British troops were dying at Ypres.

Today we remember the sacrifice of those who fought and those who died. The 888,246 British soldiers who lost their lives in The Great War. The 65 million people that were killed during that war. The 170 million who have died in war in the last 100 years.

But today we are directed by our scripture to look to our Church, we need to look at the stones we have been laid upon, the people who were the Church 100 years ago, we need to thank God for them and for their work. Then we need to challenge ourselves to build a Church to serve the world we see today. The smallest of things can make a surprising difference.

During the first world war the Catholic Woman League made a request for funds to build a recreation hut for the soldiers in Boulogne.  Immediate and generous donation allowed the ladies to open this hut for the soldiers. More followed all across Europe, and all were staffed by the Catholic ladies of the CWL. By the end of The Great War there were 35 huts providing for practical and the spiritual needs of the soldiers. Meals were provided 24 hours a day, and Mass was said on Sundays. Some huts even had permanent alters. After the war these huts provided help in rebuilding the shattered towns and villages.

As the world descended into World War II the CWL restarted the huts and over the next few years opened and staffed over 180 canteens and huts around the world. These continued long after the war and again helped to rebuild.

There are now shrines in many of the places where these huts stood. A crucifix in Westminster cathedral is made from the Cross that stood next the Westminster Hut. Next time you are there I think you can see it on the wall in the gift shop.

The huts are now all gone and few people would remember or know of the work those ladies did during the two wars. But the work, like the work of the Church we are all called to do, didn’t stop with the last hut. No, as the huts were closed and the land sold, the money was put to good use and is still being used today. The CWL Service Committee works closely with the Catholic Bishop to the Forces to help anyone connected to the forces, who is in need. Beds, wheel chairs and school books have already been provided. During the most recent war in Afghanistan the committee was asked to provide flip-flops and shorts for injured soldiers who they heard only has combat boots to wear while recover from leg wounds.

As Ezekiel said in our first reading, there is a river that flows from our Church, and where that river passes there is life. The ladies who built and staffed that first hut almost 100 years ago, built the Church their world needed, and where they passed they brought life. The ladies who manage the Service Committee today are building the Church our world needs and their work brings life. You are a stone in that same Church. What are you building for the world today and where will you bring life to today’s world.

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