The Infinite Zenith

Where insights on anime, games, academia and life dare to converge

A Brief Introspection on Remembrance Day

Last night I had the strangest dream
I ever dreamed before
I dreamed the world had all agreed
To put an end to war

— Ed McCurdy, Last Night I Had The Strangest Dream

A century ago, Europe was deep into the First World War; the French recaptured most of Saillisel and repulsed a German attack at Deniecourt. In the Egyptian theatre, British forces launched air raids on Beersheba and Maghdaba. Seven days later, the Battle of the Somme, which began in July 1, 1916, came to an end. Marking the first time tanks were used in warfare, the Battle of the Somme also saw contributions from the Canadian armed forces: in September of 1916, they participated in operations to recapture the hamlet of Courcelette, repelling German forces repeatedly. Sustained artillery shelling and effort from Canadians eventually drove the Germans back, marking a victory at the cost of 24049 Canadian soldiers. By 1917, the Canadian Corps had succeeded in taking Vimy Ridge from the German army: superior planning, tactics and use of artillery allowed the Canadians to carry out a task that had eluded the Allies for the previous two years. Even today, the Battle of Vimy Ridge is a testament to the Canadian sacrifice and courage, marking the first time in history where Canada had fought under Canadian command, rather than that of the Commonwealth. Over the course of World War I, there were 67000 deaths and 250000 wounded, and their sacrifices have had profound effects on Canada today, igniting a new wave of nationalism that contributed to Canadian citizens identifying themselves as unique from Britain. Canadians have gone on to play major roles in the Second World War, Korean War and contemporary missions in the Middle East, fighting for peace and helping to preserve freedom, which contributes to the nation’s overall ability to pursue innovation and exploration. The role of the armed forces cannot be understated, and while it is somewhat paradoxical that we must fight for peace, I am immensely grateful for what our soldiers, past, present and future, have done for our nation.

  • Every year, I make it a point to buy and wear a poppy: the donations go to the Legion Poppy Fund, used to care for and look after Veterans. It’s a worthwhile cause that gives people a chance to make a tangible difference and thank those who’ve fought for liberty and freedom.

  • Before we go any further, I would like to clarify that these screenshots are from Battlefield 1, specifically, from the first mission in the campaign. Set in a burning field of artillery craters, mud and smoke, it captures the environment that soldiers would have seen during combat — a terrifying locale where men were felled by artillery and machine-gun fire.

  • Remembrance Day ceremonies were held throughout my time in primary and secondary education. During the assemblies during primary school, instructors reminded us to never forget the courage and sacrifices of the soldiers who gave their lives during wars. These assemblies left me hopeful that war could really come to an end, and indeed, in the late 1990s, I did not know much about the world.

  • All of that changed when extremists attacked the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001, precipitating the United States’ War on Terror. Unlike the older conflicts, where enemies were united behind a flag and fought with conventional armies, the new wars against insurgents is a dramatically different one. The Baby Boomers grew up in the ever-present shadow of nuclear warfare, while terrorism and extremism is something that my generation has seen.

  • It’s safe to say that the face of warfare is changing, but the lessons and losses of the twentieth century have endured: there have been no global conflicts since the end of World War Two. The dawn of nuclear weapons meant that any future warfare encompassing the globe could be the final war that our species fight, so total and utter would the devastation be; fear of this annihilation resulted in a détente during the Cold War, where NATO and the Warsaw Pact nations agreed to try and aim for diplomacy over hostilities.

  • In my third year of middle school, my English instructor recommended that I read through Timothy Findley’s The Wars. Following Robert Ross, the novel suggests that war is both an internal and external struggle: Ross himself shoots two officers in a bid to save horses from slaughter as a result of reaching his breaking point during the war, where he failed to save those under his command.

  • My instructor read an excerpt from The Wars, during which Ross and his men find themselves amidst a gas attack from the Germans. Ordering his men to urinate into a cloth and place it over their faces (the ammonia in urine reacts with the chlorine gas to form ammonium chloride, which, while capable of causing injury, is much less potent than chlorine gas), they feign death and find themselves face to face with a German sniper. Ross eventually shoots him, only to realise that the soldier was reaching for binoculars, but had a bolt action rifle in his possession.

  • Rather than glory or honour, The Wars shows the side of warfare that is filled with madness and irrationality. The novel leads its readers to wonder how humanity can commit such actions against one another, and although I did not fully appreciate how complex the novel was back during middle school, it is a novel I am interested in reading once more.

  • In spite of the horrors and atrocities arising from warfare, a part of me also understands that it has been warfare that drove the innovations that we have today — war is a double-edged sword, and a civilisation lacking war might never see a necessity to invent and innovate. Furthermore, advances in technology and society means that at the minimum, we can reduce causalities arising from conflict as weapons become more precise.

  • In two years, it will have been a century since the War to End All Wars ended. The lessons learnt from both World Wars and the Cold War are as relevant now as they were when the conflicts ended, and we honour those who gave their lives for the name of peace by doing our best to make sure their efforts were not in vain.

I vividly recall in primary school, that we would sing songs of peace and recite John McCrae’s “In Flanders Fields” as Remembrance Day neared, assembling to remember those who gave their lives in the name of defending peace. I wondered if war could really be eliminated at the time, and it always seemed that peace could be within reach. In my final year middle school, I was assigned to work on various projects related to Remembrance Day, reading Timothy Findley’s The Wars and building a slideshow that outlined the horrors of World War One that made it so different from earlier conflicts for my school. World War One is known as “The War to End All Wars”, so appalling was its cost to human lives, but when Adolf Hitler and the Nazi party took control in Europe in the 1930s, the world was plunged into another, more devastating conflict. Although reality and experience says that war is unlikely to be eliminated, we can nonetheless honour the sacrifices made by the armed forces by both remembering what they’ve done and contributing to the progress of society in a constructive manner.

3 responses to “A Brief Introspection on Remembrance Day

  1. medievalotaku November 11, 2016 at 17:43

    Reblogged this on Medieval Otaku and commented:
    Great Post for Veterans or Remembrance Day. It’s easy to forget that Canada contributed significantly to both World Wars. The one film which comes to mind which documents the courage of Canadians in the Second World War is “The Devil’s Brigade.” A great film, which I encourage all my dear readers to watch. So, here’s to all veterans this day, and an especial thanks to our neighbors to the north for standing with us on so many critical occasions!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. cloudst12 November 15, 2016 at 22:35

    The scenes from Battlefield 1 are a chilling reminder of war and the horrors that accompany it.

    I heard a lot about Canadian shock troops from the First World War. Of the careful planning before an attack by commanders such as Arthur Currie. I have great respect for commanders who actually plan everything beforehand and not make insane plans like the Schlieffen Plan which, sounded really impractical in the first place. The Great War channel is a good place to find out more about them.

    This morning I was just listening to stories from my grandmother about the Japanese occupation of North Borneo (Now, Sabah in Malaysia). The horrors of not knowing whether or not you’ll see tomorrow – you could have your head chopped off by a katana at any moment if you were in the presence of the Japanese soldiers. The fear of being shot by strafing fighters (Sometimes, friendly fire). And, hiding in the mountains. And that’s just the horrors seen by ordinary people.

    War is hell. Especially modern war with it’s combined arms and total war. Don’t forget nuclear weapons.

    Yet, sometimes in our boring routine, we sometimes forget how blessed we are to have this privilege known as a routine. I can’t imagine how the people in Syria at this moment feel with their homes being bombed and gunfire all over the streets. My heart aches for them but there is little that can be done but to hope and pray for them.

    I firmly believe that we will see some sort of peace around the world. Or at least, no major wars in our lifetimes – I don’t foresee any large players fighting it out in the near future. And, maybe, one day, we’ll stop killing each other in our quest for meaning on this pale blue dot.

    Like

    • infinitezenith November 17, 2016 at 19:42

      It’s really well done on DICE’s part, which contributed to my decision of purchasing the game at full price to support them. In an ideal world, the only war would be fought behind a screen, using well-designed assets, network connections and game logic: the sort of things in war are terrifying, and watching the news about both ISIL and Syria is a constant reminder that I need to be thankful that I was born somewhere safe, where routines are the norm rather than the exception, and where the only things that fall from the skies are rain and snow, rather than bombs and shells.

      Admittedly, beyond the Canadian contributions to World War One and some basics, I am not too familiar with the other campaigns and battles to quite the same extent as World War Two. My grandparents experienced similar in Hong Kong, which fell to Imperial Japan in 1941, and going from my grandparents’ stories, they were very fortunate: during the Japanese occupation, around 10000 civilians were executed. The consolation is that World War Two left an impression on humanity, and our present world is organised so that at least, we don’t engage in World Wars again. However, I imagine that it might take something dramatic, such as the threat of extinction, for humanity to really pull together and unite in order to assure the species’ survival. Until then, though, the progress that we’ve made is still a major stride compared to the world a century ago.

      Liked by 1 person

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