A Reflection for remembrance
During this annual season of Remembrance, it is only natural, I suppose, for each generation to reflect on those who have gone before. However, when we look back, can we honestly say we compare with our forebears in terms of fortitude, dedication, and a sense of duty? Previous generations were faced with privations, difficulties and dangers that we cannot imagine. So I cannot help but feel that previous generations knew more of sacrificial living and service and even at times self-sacrifice than we do.
The principle of self-sacrifice is one of the great themes and principles of the New Testament. Scripture shows us so clearly that the death of Jesus Christ on the cross was the supreme act of self-sacrifice and love to this world. John, in his first letter, puts it like this.
‘By this, we know love, that he ( Jesus) laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers.’ (1 John 3:16)
During Remembrance, we remember with humble recognition and solemn pride those who gave their lives in the cause of freedom for our nation and the world. The sheer scale of the loss that our nation and our community suffered can seem overwhelming at times. Yet every name on every war memorial has its own unique story to tell.
The Royal Navy has had over centuries many illustrious and justifiably famous ships. In this roll of honour could be listed many mighty capital ships that have protected our shores and given distinguished service in conflicts across the globe. Yet among this celebrated Fleet, a little destroyer called HMS Glowworm has an honoured place. A ship much smaller than the Cal Mac ferry MV Hebrides, HMS Glowworm fought a heroic action against overwhelming odds in April 1940.
HMS Glowworm was part of the escort group of the battlecruiser HMS Renown operating in the Norwegian sea. On one of her patrols, Glowworm encountered German destroyers transporting troops for the Nazi invasion of Norway. As the enemy Destroyers retreated, they summoned help from the powerful Heavy Cruiser Admiral Hipper.
By now, too far away to expect support from the rest of her group, HMS Glowworm stood no chance against the big guns of the enemy vessel.
Despite being hopelessly outgunned and badly damaged, Glowworm managed to hit her formidable opponent and eventually, in a last act of defiance, she rammed the Admiral Hipper before she sank, with the loss of all but forty of her crew. Glowworm’s courageous action damaged the big enemy cruiser and delayed the progress of the enemy task force.
Only eternity will reveal how many Norwegian lives, Glowworm saved by delaying at least part of the Nazi invasion force for a short while. For his courage, the commander of Glowworm, Lieutenant Commander Gerard Broadmead Roope, was awarded posthumously the Victoria Cross, the first Victoria Cross awarded in World War 2. Interestingly, his award was given partly on the commendation of the enemy. The captain of the Admiral Hipper, Kapitän zur See Hellmuth Heye wrote to the British authorities via the Red Cross subsequently to inform them of the outstanding bravery of the captain and crew of HMS Glowworm.
The fact is that as soon as Commander Roope steered his little ship towards the Admiral Hipper, he knew he ( and his crew ) were as good as dead. He knew he would never see his wife and children again. Yet, his sense of duty was so strong that he was prepared to lay down his life in the hope of frustrating the enemy and saving other lives. The sacrifice of HMS Glowworm, exemplifies the courage in the face of the enemy for which the Victoria Cross is awarded. However it is the sacrifice offered on THE Cross that epitomises what true self-sacrifice means.
The New Testament gospels all show us us that Jesus went to the Cross , with a determined purpose to die in love for His people. In John’s gospel we see the greatest reminder of all of what such Sacrifice truly means;
The apostle Paul expressed it so well in his letter to the Romans
‘For scarcely for a righteous man will one die, yet perhaps for a good man, someone would even dare to die. But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. ( Romans 5:7-8)