Remembrance Sunday

This Sunday morning at eleven o'clock, pretty much everything will come to a halt for a couple of minutes here in Britain and across Canada, New Zealand, Australia and a dozen other countries around the world.

It's Remembrance Sunday and in the run up to this commemoration of all who have fallen in conflict, most of us here wear a poppy.

Remembrance Sunday is a little like your Memorial Day, and it's always held on the nearest Sunday to November the eleventh, the day in 1918 when the guns fell silent at the end of the First World War. At that time, poppies flourished in the churned up fields of war torn Europe and it was an American lady, Moira Michael from Georgia, who established the tradition we all follow today and first wore a poppy in remembrance.

This year in Britain, Daniel Radcliffe - that's right Harry Potter - is starring as Rudyard Kipling's son in a TV special being screened on Sunday night. Kipling - that's right, the author who created Mowgli, Bagheera and Balu, the Just So Stories and Gunga Din - was as much a victim of war as any. He was a great believer in the superiority of The British Empire and war with Germany, and when the British Army wouldn't accept his short sighted son John, he used his considerable influence to get the rules bent and the boy a commission in the Irish Guards.

John was posted to France on his eighteenth birthday and six weeks later was killed in his first action. When he heard the news, Kipling is reported to have howled like a dog in agony at the pain of losing his son. He didn't accept his loss for four years and never forgave himself for sending John to war.

It's hard to believe now just how influential Kipling was. Letters of condolence included one from Theodore Roosevelt. Kipling spent the rest of his life searching for John's remains and commemorating the war dead. There is a grave for John Kipling.

But the final irony is that the headstone, inscribed with John Kipling's name and that of his regiment, stands over the grave of the wrong man. So, John Kipling is one of those, in the words of his father, buried somewhere out on the farmland of Northern France and "known only to God".
By Simon Bates