They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning,
We will remember them.
(Taken from ‘For The Fallen’ by Laurence Binyon, September 1914)
I have posted these words each year on Remembrance Sunday, and will keep on doing so. They never lose their meaning or their simple power, their power to remind us of the sacrifice made by so many to protect the way of life we enjoy today – above all, our freedom. This time last year I referred to a failed attempt to disrupt the Day of Remembrance in London by bombing, and the decision by the University of London Students Union to ban its members from attending any commemorations as they “glorify war.” A year on, nothing much seems to have changed, does it? People still use that democratic freedom to make efforts to destroy it, and people continue to confuse a belief that war is wrong with the misguided view that we should not commemorate those sacrifices.
I don’t want to get into a debate about pacifism, but am very clear that I find war abhorrent. However, that does not stop me from marking my respect for anyone who has ever taken part in a campaign to protect my freedom. I will observe the official silence in my own way, and will give them my silent thanks. Official commemorations began in the UK in 1919, after the end of the First Word War, and have since developed to include the Second World War and service men and women from other campaigns. But for the first time since 1919 there will be no official parade through the town of Epping, where I live, as the police have decided that it will be too expensive for them to provide the required traffic and crowd control. In common with most towns in the UK we have a war memorial, which will see a scaled down commemoration, but it saddens me that the usual commemoration will not take place. With every passing year, fewer veterans of the Second World War remain, and I think it disrespectful to them and their fallen comrades that political and economic considerations interfere. We even have a Leader of the Opposition who is well known to hold pacifist views, and it will be interesting to see what he does today at the official commemoration at the Cenotaph. But he probably won’t be around as leader for long – his party knows that they have chosen a leader who will never win them a General Election – so this may not be an ongoing issue. I just hope for a dignified, respectful commemoration, as unsullied as possible by politics or by any hint that Binyon’s words about not ‘condemning’ those who died are being proved wrong.
Wherever you are, however you do it, I hope that you will be able to spare a moment to give thanks for those who have died to protect your way of life.