UK, US pay tribute to fallen in Basra
November 16, 2010
- Nations from the British Commonwealth mark Nov. 11 as Armistice Day and the nearest Sunday as Remembrance Day.
- More than 40,500 Allied Soldiers gave their lives in Iraq during World War I.
- The Basra War Cemetery is the final resting place for 3,254 Soldiers killed during WWI.
BASRA, Iraq - Ninety-two years ago, on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month, the guns on the European western front fell silent. After years of the "war to end all wars," the belligerents agreed to suspend the fighting to negotiate a peace.
Today, in the United States, the day is observed as Veterans Day, a day to honor all who served in the armed forces. In the Commonwealth nations, it is observed as Armistice Day, and the nearest Sunday is observed as Remembrance Sunday, to honor the fallen.
Basra Province in Iraq was a key battleground during World War I and also Operation Iraqi Freedom, so it was fitting that Soldiers and civilians from the U.K. and U.S. currently serving in Basra observed both days with multiple ceremonies.
At the U.S. base on Basra International Airport, dozens gathered Nov. 11 to honor the memory of three civilians working for Kellogg, Brown and Root who were killed in the course of their duties here in 2008.
Support for the service came from Chaplain (Lt. Col.) Timothy Mallard, the 1st Infantry Division Chaplain.
"Today is an appropriate culmination of Veterans Day and Remembrance Day," said Mallard. "It's a tremendous honor to participate in today's event, standing side by side with the great people involved in this conflict from Iraq, America, Great Britain, KBR employees and so many other nations as a collective service."
Timothy Saunders, Security Manager of KBR Basra Iraq, from Plymouth England, said he remembered that day very well when he lost three coworkers.
"Today is not a holiday. It's a day to cherish and express our thanks and to honor soldiers that have served and to remember those that have paid the ultimate sacrifice for one's country." Saunders said.
Another ceremony was held Nov. 11 at the Ash Shulamia War Memorial, a monument bearing the names of men and women who died for their country.
Jon Knight, the British Deputy Consul General, said the 100-meter long memorial built in 1921 noted the names of more than 40,500 British and Commonwealth servicemen and women who gave their lives in Iraq in World War I, particularly those for whom there is no known grave.
"This monument provides a physical reminder of the sacrifice people have made over the years," Knight said. "To respect those who gave their all."
"Those noted on the monument did a lot to build the infrastructure of Iraq," Knight said, "particularly in the south around the ports of Basra. It reminds us of all those from so many nations who have died in Iraq over the last 100 years."
On Nov. 14, dignitaries and guests from Iraq, Turkey, and the United States stood alongside the British Consul General for a Remembrance Day service at the British Commonwealth-owned cemetery in Basra.
Honorable Alice Walpole, the British Consul General and Head of the British Embassy Office in Basra, joined Maj. Gen. Abdul Aziz, commanding general of the 14th Iraqi Army Division, Honorable Ali Reza Oozjo, Turkish Consul General in Basra, and Brig. Gen. Ricky Gibbs, United States Division-South deputy commanding general for maneuver, to pay tribute to the 3,254 people buried at the Basra War Cemetery.
Just eight kilometers northwest of Basra, Walpole began the service with a reminder of those laid to rest on the sands of Iraq during World War I.
"Like us, they came to Iraq from across the globe," Walpole said. "Britain, Turkey, India, Pakistan... For them, Basra became their final resting place."
"We gather here to remember the dead of all world conflicts," Walpole said. "In this city, we particularly remember all those, Iraqi, British and others, who have given their lives in the service of a safe, stable and prosperous Iraq."
Soon after Walpole's greetings, wreaths of poppies were ceremoniously placed on the Stone of Remembrance, etched with the words 'Their Name Liveth For Evermore.'
Knight said in the U.K. life comes to a standstill in honor of those who have made the greatest sacrifice.
"Across the country at 11 a.m.," Knight said. "Everyone spends two minutes of rare tranquility remembering all who have suffered as a result of war."
This day is not just to recognize those who died in WWI, but for those who have died in the most recent conflicts, Knight said.
"The majority of the British Armed Forces have served alongside their American colleagues in Iraq or Afghanistan," Knight said. "It's absolutely vital we recognize their efforts. Support those who came back with physical or psychological scars and pay tribute to those who never made it home."
<i>1st Sgt. Charles Owens, 305th MPAD, also contributed to this story.</i>