At its base are four triangular prisms with the names of local areas inscribed. On one prism is a single rose petal, on which are the words “James Stokes VC 1915-1945”. The purpose of this memorial is to remember all of those from the Gorbals, Laurieston, Hutchesontown and Oatlands areas of Glasgow who gave their lives in conflict. It also serves as a reminder of the heroics which earned James Stokes his Victoria Cross.
As Private Stokes rushed German machine gun positions in Kervenheim, Germany in the closing months of the war, he had little thought for his own life, only for the lives of his comrades. His assault resulted in him single-handedly taking seventeen prisoners and opening the way for his regiment to advance with fewer losses than might otherwise have been the case. In a third and final assault, Stokes succumbed to the eight wounds he had received in his upper body, and fell for a final time.
As the king awarded him his posthumous Victoria Cross, the London Gazette records: “Private Stokes’ one object throughout this action was to kill the enemy, at great personal risk”.
While these stories of tremendous courage in the face of seemingly insurmountable odds can often humble us, what really stands out is the way Private Stokes is remembered on that monument in Glasgow. Among the rose and the prisms is an inscription: “Stop and look, really look, tomorrow may be too late.”
The artist, Liz Peden, undoubtedly wanted people to stop at this memorial and pay proper attention to the sacrifice made by over one million servicemen and women in two world wars, among them James Stokes VC. If we don’t stop and look, then we may never get another chance. If we don’t really look, and pay proper attention to the consequences of war, then history will repeat itself over and over again.
In the Bible, we are invited repeatedly to look. Isaiah 45:22 says: “Look to Me, and be saved, all you ends of the earth! For I am God, and there is no other.” While pausing to look at the James Stokes memorial is important, this verse calls for a longer, more important look at a vital subject. Private Stokes stands among a very select band, only 1,358 Victoria Crosses have been awarded since its inception in 1856. The subject of this verse isn’t among a select group though, He stands unique.
What the God of heaven is inviting us into, is not a contemplation of the horrors of war, but a consideration of the effects of sin. Sin has ruined this world and has affected the whole of humanity. It seems impossible to defeat for it has been victorious for almost all human history. It is into this situation that God sends His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. He alone has been able to defeat sin and death; He alone stands victorious over it. However, the price for Him personally was enormous; it cost Him his life on a cross at Calvary “. . . that through death He might destroy him who had the power of death, that is, the devil” (Hebrews 2:14).
We are invited to look in faith to the One who has completed that work while we still have an opportunity, and the promise from God is that we shall be saved.
Saved from sin, saved from death, saved from hell, all through His finished work.
“Stop and look, really look, tomorrow may be too late.”