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Instagram (well, at least my feed....) over the last few days has been full of pictures of various European royals and government officials placing wreaths to commemorate the centennial of the start of World War I, scattered in among my more usual pictures of gorgeous skeins of yarn, yummy looking meals, and incredible landscapes (the US Department of the Interior has an absolutely amazing Instagram account for those who like pretty pictures).

Since today is also Tisha b'Av, my Facebook feed is mostly friends asking how each others' fasts are going.

While this year is the centennial of the start of the war, it's still a couple years until the hundredth anniversary of the battle of The Somme.

An uncle of mine died on the first day of that battle.

He wasn't alone in that fate. The British army delivered 60,000 death notifications just from that one day's action.

The battle, which lasted from the beginning of July to the middle of November in 1916, ended up killing over a million men.

I expect that much of my cynicism about the military and dislike of war stems from having grown up on stories of my uncle's death....

Several of the videos linked are of what is (in my opinion) one of the best anti-war songs ever: No Man's Land (alternate title: The Green Fields of France), written in the 1970s by Eric Bogle.

It references a traditional Scottish folk tune called the Flowers of the Forest, often played at military funerals on the bagpipes. It's the official lament of the Canadian military, for example. In fact, supposedly many pipers only play it at funerals, memorial services/commemorations, and for private practice.

The Flowers of the Forest:

World War 1 is largely forgotten and ignored in the US, but it devastated a generation in Europe.

My family was likely unfortunately typical. Of the six brothers (there were also several sisters), one died as a toddler in the slums of Leith, Scotland ~ again, not unusual :-(

One married young and stayed in Scotland until he joined the British Expeditionary Forces for World War 1. He left three young children for his widow to raise after he died in France. He's buried in France, one marker in a sea of white crosses.

The youngest brother with their father:

2 peter mcgee jamieson with son John

Four immigrated to Canada (to join a married sister after their mother died) before the war, all of whom returned to Europe to fight in what was supposed to be the war to end all wars ~ two in the Canadian Expeditionary Forces, two in the British.

One of the brothers, with the woman who would later become his wife (who served as a nurse in various British Army hospitals) ~ picture taken while both were on leave in at Christmas 1918:

edward john jamieson and margaret arthur 1918

Two of the four had injuries that caused life-long physical and/or mental health issues, as did two brothers-in-law.

Tisha b'Av (English: the ninth of the month of Av) is one of two major (sunset to sunset/25 hour) Jewish fast days (the other is Yom Kippur; there are also four minor {sunrise to sunset} fast days. Navy Vet Terp did a diary for the dvar Torah series on the day.

The primary commemoration of Tisha b'Av is the destruction of both the first and second temples in Jerusalem. Various other catastrophes for the Jewish people have happened on/near Tisha b'Av, so those are usually mentioned during services, which also feature a reading of Eicha (the book of Lamentations) and kinnot (dirges/elegies composed to mourn the temples; now often Holocaust kinnot are added as well).

Bar Kokhba's ended by the Romans and the city of Betar destroyed (killing over 100,000 Jews), 132
The expulsion of Jews from England, 1290
The expulsion of Jews from France, 1306
The expulsion of Jews from Spain, 1492
Formal approval for the Final Solution, 1941
Beginning of the deportations from the Warsaw Ghetto to Treblinka, 1942

Music is not part of Jewish mourning practice. In fact, observant Ashkenazi Jews have spent the last three weeks not listening to music (as well as not eating meat for the last nine days), building up to today's solemnity.

But the videos I've linked to certainly fit the mood of the day.

Originally posted to mayim on Tue Aug 05, 2014 at 01:43 PM PDT.

Also republished by Elders of Zion.

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