On Remembrance Sunday

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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.

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17 thoughts on “On Remembrance Sunday

    • We used to have a special service each year at school (1960s) and themed morning assemblies. Judging from my daughters’ schooling (1990s and 2000s) there was a watered down version of this still in place and hopefully there is still something. Children need to understand the sacrifices made by previous generations so that they can have the life they enjoy now.

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  1. It has nothing to do with War and everything to do with Peace. These are those who gave their all, made the highest sacrifice any can make to restore Peace. We owe it to them. We owe them so much. The least we can do is pay quiet respect for a moment on this day lest the going down of the sun be its final set.

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      • My mother gets absolutely incensed at the poor grasp of history in the masses. My stepson has just completed an MA in Medieval History and hopes to teach younger (7-11) children now that he is back in the USA. I consider this to be a most valuable and laudable ambition for without a sound grasp of history how can we possibly avoid repeating the same mistakes again. And as we all know if we teach the lessons young and plausibly they do stick.

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      • Unfortunately, with the focus being towards more ‘vocational’ subjects, history and the arts generally are increasingly being seen as luxury and unnecessary subjects. We’re breeding a generation of numpties.

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      • Exactly. Last year I raised the point on 11/11 that I really feel that in keeping with so much of the world we should have it as a National HOliday. It would resolve the issue of the UK having no holidays from late August to Christmas and it is highly appropriate, non-religious and something that everyone should grow up respecting. This was on FaceBook. I got a storm of disapproval from all ages telling me that celebrating war was not something they would have thought would be in my make-up. I refused to argue but honestly? My own children are properly educated but sadly not because of the school system and its no better here. But at least there is a real stake in the ground that Veterans IS a public holiday – its a good starting point for educating children in the why … but then I’m an idealist and a dreamer so what do I know? 😉

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      • It’s really sad that you got that reaction. It is precisely because of the sacrifices made by so many that people are actually here, in democratic societies, where they are free to form such opinions. They haven’t really thought it through, have they!

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      • I tend to keep my head down much of the time and then use the element of surprise to try and get people to think a little. I’m fairly bullet-proof but I was amazed at some of the people that reacted so. Unfortunately, Social Media encourages people to react before they think which is a big issue, I think.

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      • It certainly is. It encourages the keyboard warriors to say things they might not say in real life words, and gives them a platform. The damage is then done. The greatest exponent of it is a certain Mr Trump, but I’m not convinced of his capacity for rational thought anyway.

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  2. I was only saying to my husband this morning that the WW2 veterans are getting fewer every year. Do you remember the ‘Old Contemptibles’ who used to march when we were kids? The band always played slower for them. Dear old boys.

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