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. In previous years I have 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.” Since then, 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 World War, and have since developed to include the Second World War and service women and men from other campaigns. Last year, for the first time since 1919, there was due to have been no official parade through the town of Epping, where I live, as the police had decided that it would 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, and I was greatly heartened to see the people of this town turn out in large numbers despite the police’s decision, to mark the usual commemoration. Common sense prevailed, and the normal procession through the town took place, as it is far too important an event to be forgotten and cast to the mists of history, just because of funding cutbacks for the police. 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. I hope that all towns in the UK will see their usual dignified, respectful commemoration, as unsullied as possible by politics, finances 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.