Tuesday, November 6th, 2018
I read, with a heavy heart and no little shock, that the Student Union at Cambridge University, supposedly a seat of our brightest and best students, voted to change the way in which they supported Remembrance Sunday. The only day in our calendar when we come together as a Nation to remember those who laid down their lives for the people of this country. Those young men and women died fighting to protect our nation, our people and our society and yet, shockingly, a number of these students decided that this was wrong, that poppies were wrong, that talking about British War Veterans was wrong, that Remembrance Sunday glorified war and that we should campaign against militarism.
My first thoughts were did these enlightened individuals ever study any of Siegfried Sassoon’s or Wilfred Owen’s poems? Nothing glorified there. Did they ever study History in school? Because nothing I was taught glorified war. Did they ever even see the film War Horse? Because even Hollywood did not manage to glorify war. And my second thought was just plain anger.
We all live safely under the cloak of democracy, with the right to question, criticise and protest ONLY BECAUSE of those thousands of young men and women buried under small white crosses. How dare any of us undermine the bravery and the ultimate price paid by our soldiers? How dare we take for granted the rights we have, that had these soldiers not fought for King and Country we would be in a very different world; one where free speech and the right to protest would not exist.
To people like me, whose grandparents lived through two World Wars, the horrific consequences of war, the fear of what the world could have been had we not fought against tyranny and evil are so embedded in our psyche that we are in no doubt as to why we need to remember. It is not to glorify war, it is to ensure that it does not happen again, that tyrants are never again given the opportunity to gas light society and never again should parents have to worry that their children might be conscripted to a front line. Never again should we have to watch thousands of men and women march down the streets waved off by their families. Never again for those families to receive telegrams explaining that their child was Killed in Action, or have to help them recover on their return from those horrors that they encountered. This is something the younger generations have been saved from, and please God they should always be saved from, but it has meant that they are insulated from the reality of war. There is a lack of understanding as to why the World Wars took place; maybe they believe it will never happen again but the one thing my grandfather, who lived to be a 101, taught me, is that it is only by remembering that it can be prevented. Because as sure as eggs are eggs if we take peace for granted, if we forget those who fought for peace, if we learn no lessons from those who died, then it is a very short journey to yet another World War.
Remembrance Sunday is not about governments or politics. It is about the ordinary man who is called upon, at times of great darkness and conflict, to stand up and fight for what is right. No-one sane wants to go to war, but sometimes we have to, to protect what is right and what is just. It can easily be argued that some wars entered we would have been better staying out of, but that has nothing to do with our Armed Forces. They do what is asked of them, without question, for the genuine good of us all and for that reason alone we have a duty to wear our Poppies, to stand silently around a war memorial with heads bowed in remembrance and gratitude to them.
And for that reason, and that alone, we would and should thank the Armed Forces, past, present and future for their bravery and protection; we will be wearing our Poppies with pride and eternal gratitude on Sunday 11th November 2018.