11 November 2008 will be the 90th anniversary of Armistice Day…. the cessation of hostilities on the Western Front, which took effect at eleven o’clock in the morning — the “eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month”.
Take a ride through any French town or village, and there’ll be a monument, or memorial to those lost in the First World War. Stop and read the names, and you’ll see that a lot of families lost more than one. Yet the French equivalent of the poppy, the paper cornflower whose blue colour recalls the French sky-blue uniforms, is rarely seen in the buttonholes of television presenters or politicians, and it is almost impossible to find one on sale.
Every year, a dwindling number of first world war veterans attend the Arc de Triomphe wreath-laying ceremony but this year none of the surviving 15 Frenchmen – aged between 105 and 109 – are well enough to take part.
Well, I’ll be doing my tiny bit tomorrow…. sporting a flower and a ribbon. Lest we forget.