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Great Patriotic War Remembrance, St Petersburg

I was glad to have gone to St Petersburg in early May. This is the time of year when Russia remembers the great sacrifices it – and the Soviet Union of which it was a part – made during World War 2 (which in Russia is known as the Great Patriotic War.) It is salutary to think that without that sacrifice the war against Germany would have been a much greater struggle for the Western Powers than it was. It is not too great a statement to make that the war in Europe was in fact won by the Soviet Union.

Britain’s contribution to overcoming Nazi Germany is much over-estimated by many in these islands. It really amounted to not losing – or at least not admitting to, and therefore not giving up. From the Normandy landings onwards it was even overshadowed by the US (which of course – British victories at Kohima, Imphal and Burma notwithstanding – won the Pacific War more or less by itself.)

St Petersburg in early May 2019 was covered in banners commemorating the Victory Day in 1945.

1945-2019 Remembrance. (Unfortunately seen through rainy coach windows):-

1945-2019 Remembrance St Petersburg

Corner of Palace Square:-

palace , St Petersburg, Russia

There are 1941-1945 banners in front of this building in Palace Square:-

Palace Square  , banners

Close-up view of banner:-

1941-1945 banner

More banners in Palace Square. (St Isaac’s Cathedral in distance):-

Palace , St Petersburg, Russia

1941-1945 Remembrance Banner, Nevsky Prospekt, St Petersburg:-

1941-1945 Remembrance Banner, Nevsky Prospekt, St Petersburg

Brechin War Memorial

After all those visits to Brechin to see the mighty Sons of the Rock play away against Brechin City last year in August in preparation for yet another visit I finally looked up where Brechin’s War Memorial is located. It turned out it’s very near the football ground in a pleasant park area.

It’s an impressive sandstone column:-

Brechin War Memorial

Side view:-

Brechin War Memorial From Side

World War 2 Dedication. “To the glory of God and in grateful remembrance of those who gave their lives in the Second World War 1939 – 1945.” Below the names, “Greater love hath no man than this.”

World War 2 Dedication, Brechin War Memorial

Great War Dedication, “To the undying memory of the men of the City and Parish of Brechin who gave their lives in the Great War 1914 – 1919. Their name liveth for evermore,” and names Ada – Cla:-

Brechin War Memorial Great War Dedication

Great War names Cob – Hod:-

WW1 Names, Brechin War Memorial 8

Great War names Hoo-Pai:-

Great War Names Brechin War Memorial

Great War names Pet – You:-

Brechin War Memorial Great War Names

Other Conflicts; Kenya, Northern Ireland, Korea, Malaya. Plus additional names for France 1916, Burma 1945, and Mediterranean 1942:-

Brechin War Memorial, Other Conflicts

King’s Lynn War Memorial

This stands in Greyfriars Gardens opposite the headquarters of Norfolk Police and near to Greyfriars Tower.

King's Lynn War Memorial  1

The Memorial itself is a simple cross surmounting a pillar on an octagonal base and plinth. The inscription is for the Great War though the Memorial contains the names of the dead from both World Wars.

King's Lynn War Memorial 2

Each of the slimmer hexagonal elements of the base lists battles/campaigns of the Great War.

Engagements at sea:-

King's Lynn War Memorial 3

Overseas campaigns:-

King's Lynn War Memorial 5

Western Front battles:-

King's Lynn War Memorial 6

Mainly Middle-East campaigns but not exclusively so:-

King's Lynn War Memorial 6

Dedication to post 1945 conflicts:-

King's Lynn War Memorial 7

There is a separate Memorial Stone dedicated to the Burma campaign 1941-45:-

King's Lynn War Memorial 8

There is a further Memorial stone table, flanked by two inscribed tablets:-

King's Lynn War Memorial 9

This photograph of the inscription on the top comes from King’s Lynn Roll-of-Honour:-

Memorial tablet laid by various commemorative organisations:-

's Lynn War Memorial 10

Tablet dedicated to 50th anniversary of end of World War 2:-

King's Lynn War Memorial 11

The Menin Gate (ii)

Exterior Walls on upper level; all covered in names:-

Menin Gate Exterior Wall

As are the walls on the stairs down to the road level:-

Menin Gate Stairs

In the upper garden area are two memorials to British colonial troops.

Nepalese Memorial by Menin Gate:-

Nepalese Memorial by Menin Gate

India in Flanders Fields Memorial by Menin Gate:-

India in Flanders Fields Memorial by  Menin Gate

Individual Indian and Burmese soldiers’ names on the Gate:-

Menin Gate, Indian and Burmese Names

Deep River by Shusaku Endo

Peter Owen, 1994, 220 p. Translated from Japanese by Van C Gessel.

Deep River cover

I read Endo’s Silence (published 1966) and The Samurai (1980) years ago now but this is the first book of his I have read since. Endo’s writing is unlike most Japanese authors in that it is coloured by his Christianity, specifically Roman Catholicism. Silence dealt directly with the missionary times in Japan, The Samurai with the cultural differences between Japan and “the West.”

Deep River engages with yet another culture, that of India, mainly following a group of Japanese tourists there ostensibly to visit Buddhist sites but each of whom has his or her own concerns. Isobe has lost his wife to cancer but on her deathbed she whispered she was convinced she would reincarnate; he has learned of a possible candidate in India. Mitsuko has a connection to Ōtsu, a man she tormented in her college days who is now doing good works in Varanasi (the book spells this city’s name as Vārānasī throughout.) Numada is a children’s writer who wants to set free a myna bird as an act of restitution. Kiguchi is haunted by his experience on the Highway of Death in the retreat from Burma and wishes to have a reconciliatory memorial service to the fallen of both sides.

(Aside:- It is perhaps understandable that little of the hideousnesses that Kiguchi remembers from the retreat is remarked on in non-Japanese writings. In the aftermath of an ill-advised offensive which duly went wrong the soldiers were left to their own devices and suffered accordingly. But then even in their good times Japanese soldiers were notoriously ill-served by their superiors. In retreat they were just forgotten.)

While the first part of the book chronicles the back-stories of the four main characters it is India that is the true centre of the novel. All four encounter the overpowering nature of that country. The deep river is not only the Ganges at Varanasi but the mass of humanity. Yet even here Endo’s Catholicism makes itself felt. Ōtsu has his own particular take on theology, failing his seminary education by being unable to accept European views and seeing God in all religions not exclusively in one. Nevertheless he clings to what he sees as his Christian beliefs.

The trip coincides with Indira Gandhi’s assassination. This coupled with his experiences on the Highway of Death makes Kiguchi come to the somewhat jaundiced conclusion that, “It was not love but the formation of mutual enmities that made a bonding between human beings possible.”

While the manifestations of Japanese, and indeed Indian, culture may appear odd to western eyes, reading books like this shows that at their hearts people really do not vary much the world over. Here it is religion that is the biggest estranging factor.

Refreshingly the translation is into British English but there were some entries for Pedant’s Corner:- négligé (négligée,) when he laid (lay) in wait, her name in Rajini (is,) when… gets me alone this (like this,) resembling that of his dead wife’s (a possessive too far,) we’d better just lay low (lie,) of the the taxi, “a harmonium, an instrument resembling a harmonica” (it isn’t clear whether this is supposed to mean two different instruments or if a harmonium resembles a harmonica – which it doesn’t,) to eat they daily bread (their.)

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