This week, in Canada and across the Commonwealth, we observe Remembrance Day, a day to remember and honour the service and sacrifice of the men and women who fought and died for the freedoms we currently enjoy. Other countries observe similar memorial days on November 11th, as that is the date of the end of hostilities in World War I. This day is often marked with parades, memorial services, and moments of silence. It’s symbols include (in Canada, at least) the red poppy and the phrase “Lest we forget.”

Tomb of the Unknown Soldier
Tomb of the Unknown Soldier

This past week, I was able to find out the history of the phrase “Lest we forget,” and I find it rather interesting, and more than a little ironic. (I found the information on Interesting Literature, if you’re curious) Rudyard Kipling (of The Jungle Book and So-So Stories fame), composed the poem “Recessional” for the Diamond Jubilee of Queen Victoria in 1897. The poem acts as a prayer, that God would keep Britain from disaster and to keep her true to the Christian faith. The “Lest we forget,” is an admonition to not forget the God that sustains and protects the British people.

Herein, I think, lies the irony. We have adopted a phrase to ensure we don’t forget, but have forgotten what the phrase originally asked us to remember!

Don’t get me wrong, I think we should remember the courage and sacrifice of those who have fought, and continue to fight for us, and I think Remembrance Day is incredibly important. But perhaps we should remember the One who oversees all, including our soldiers.

For those interested, here is Rudyard Kipling’s poem:


God of our fathers, known of old—
Lord of our far-flung battle line—
Beneath whose awful hand we hold
Dominion over palm and pine—
Lord God of Hosts, be with us yet,
Lest we forget—lest we forget!

The tumult and the shouting dies—
The Captains and the Kings depart—
Still stands Thine ancient sacrifice,
An humble and a contrite heart.
Lord God of Hosts, be with us yet,
Lest we forget—lest we forget!

Far-called our navies melt away—
On dune and headland sinks the fire—
Lo, all our pomp of yesterday
Is one with Nineveh and Tyre!
Judge of the Nations, spare us yet,
Lest we forget—lest we forget!

If, drunk with sight of power, we loose
Wild tongues that have not Thee in awe—
Such boastings as the Gentiles use,
Or lesser breeds without the Law—
Lord God of Hosts, be with us yet,
Lest we forget—lest we forget!

For heathen heart that puts her trust
In reeking tube and iron shard—
All valiant dust that builds on dust,
And guarding calls not Thee to guard.
For frantic boast and foolish word,
Thy Mercy on Thy People, Lord!

To all of those who are serving today, thank you. To those who have died so I may live, I will not forget.