WW1 Remembrance Day Mt Scopus

WW1 Remembrance Day at the British Military Cemetery on Mount Scopus

Written by Efrat Assaf. Translated by Davyd Tal

A ceremony commemorating the end of the First World War is held annually on the 2nd week of November at the British Military cemetery on Mount Scopus. Kilted British soldiers playing the bagpipes are the ceremony's highlight.

The First World War ended at precisely 11 am on 11/11/1917

Justly named "The Great War", it claimed a horrific toll. More than 18.5 million people died, half of them civilians. The combatant countries comprised "The Allies" on one side – the British Empire (including Australia, New Zealand, Canada & South Africa), France, the Russian Empire, Italy, The USA, Belgium, Serbia, Montenegro, Romania & Greece – who faced the "Axis Countries" of Germany, the Austro-Hungarian Empire, The Turkish Ottoman Empire & Bulgaria.

The British built military cemeteries close to battlefields for fallen Allied soldiers, as well as for enemy soldiers. Five such cemeteries were built in Israel – Jerusalem, Haifa, Be'er Sheva, Ramleh & Dir El Balach (Gaza).

These graves for fallen soldiers who died far from home are rarely visited by family and friends. However, Britain does not forget its fallen and each year on or around the date of the end of WW1 British defence department representatives organize ceremonies at all the military cemeteries. Additional ceremonies are held by Australia (25th April) and New Zealand (31st October) in Ramleh, Jerusalem, and Be'er Sheva.

As the British Consular staff in Israel is relatively small, the ceremonies take place on different days. This year the ceremony took place on Mount Scopus.

At the entrance to the cemetery consulate representatives distributed poppy badges. The consular and other official representatives were decked out in full regalia. A bugler and a bagpipe player from the British army school of music.

Speeches were made by Consular and other dignitaries, and wreaths were laid at the cemetery's main wall. The lone bugle played "The Last Post", followed by the slow wailing of the bagpipes, bringing the ceremony to a close.

The Mount Scopus military cemetery was established in 1927. 2,539 fallen soldiers are buried there, 24 of them Jewish. The cemetery overlooks the Old City and surrounding hills. A law banning building was passed in order to preserve the unique view.

The ceremony took place on Saturday, with the Ramleh ceremony the following day.

The British military cemetery was the model for the State of Israel's military cemeteries. The standard gravestones, the same for all ranks, are superbly maintained. At the Mount Scopus cemetery an old arbutus tree stands out, the striking red wood in harmony with the site. Seedlings have been planted around to guarantee its continuation.

The cemetery has a basic cross shape. The path from the entrance gate leads to the chapel. The path is lined with graves, the rows of identical headstones lined in precise and constant rows. The entrance gate is in fact a memorial for the Imperial Guard, the unit's tag inscribed in stone at the side of the gate. Above are inscriptions in English, Arabic and Hebrew. Across from the gate stands a memorial to the Australian soldiers who fell in battle in Palestine.

The “Cross of Sacrifice” and the “Memorial Stone” are in the central aisle, two constant symbolic monuments found in all British military cemeteries. The Cross of Sacrifice, which reflects the English writer and poet Rudyard Kipling’s phrase “The drawn sword in the lap of the Cross”, symbolises the sacrifice of battle. Kipling, who lost his only son in the Great War and who was a member of the Imperial Convention, suggested the words that are carved on the Memorial Stone, which is designed as an alter: “Their Names Will Be Established Forever”.

Carved on the Memorial Chapel at the end of the pathway are the names of 3,366 soldiers who lost their lives in Egypt and in Palestine during WW1 and whose graves are unknown. Above the chapel is a statue of England’s patron Saint George battling the dragon.

The gravestones carry the names and regimental units of the soldiers. Christian graves are marked with a cross; Jewish soldiers with a Magen David.

The Jewish graves can be found in the west part of the cemetery.

“Rounded” British military headstones differ slightly from the “wavy” Ottoman military headstones or the “pointed” German military headstones.

The foot of the headstone is for family additions.

Here are some additions I found to be touching:   “WHAT CAN A MAN DO MORE / THAN DIE FOR HIS COUNTRYMAN

FAREWELL / BRAVE SON AND BROTHER / GOD BE WITH US / UNTIL WE MEET AGAIN”

(Added in Hebrew: “Moshe Bar Zvi / died 10 of Adar  (1918) / God gives, God takes away, may God’s name be blessed”).

“WE LOVED HIM / JESUS LOVED HIM BEST”

“TIME FLIES / LOVE REMAINS”

“GONE BUT NOT FORGOTTEN”

In closing, I will quote the priest of Saint Andrew’s Church, said in much sorrow (my free translation):

“Many years have passed since the prophets Elijah and Joshua spoke, but man still learns War. If Jerusalem will know Peace, thee whole world will know Peace”.

“The Soldier”, by Rupert Brooke*

“If I should die, think only this of me:
That there's some corner of a foreign field
That is for ever England. There shall be
In that rich earth a richer dust concealed;
A dust whom England bore, shaped, made aware,
Gave, once, her flowers to love, her ways to roam,
A body of England's, breathing English air,
Washed by the rivers, blest by suns of home.

And think, this heart, all evil shed away,
A pulse in the eternal mind, no less
Gives somewhere back the thoughts by England given;
Her sights and sounds; dreams happy as her day;
And laughter, learnt of friends; and gentleness,
In hearts at peace, under an English heaven.”

* Rupert Brooke, one of England’s great poets, died while serving in the British Mediterranean Expeditionary Force in 1915, aged 27.

The ceremony is open to the public. If may make a donation to the maintenance of the military cemetery at collection boxes available during the ceremony.

13.5.08 ע"י צ. אסף photo by Z. Assaf 13/5/2008

more information:

wikipedia – http://he.wikipedia.org/wiki/%D7%91%D7%99%D7%AA_%D7%94%D7%A7%D7%91%D7%A8%D7%95%D7%AA_%D7%94%D7%A6%D7%91%D7%90%D7%99_%D7%94%D7%91%D7%A8%D7%99%D7%98%D7%99_%D7%91%D7%99%D7%A8%D7%95%D7%A9%D7%9C%D7%99%D7%9D