On Remembrance Sunday


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.

On Remembrance Sunday

“Lest we forget”

Perhaps fittingly for Remembrance Sunday, I’m in a reflective mood. Thinking back over the past week, when I have finally managed to share the story of my past year, the hugely cathartic effect this has had for me, and the wonderful comments I’ve received on what I have written. Thinking back over that year, and all that has happened – some of it very bad, and some of it incredibly good. And then, prompted by the media coverage, thinking about what Remembrance means to me. I was born in Dover eight years after the end of WWII and my childhood memories include constant reminders of the destruction caused by war: ruins where buildings had once been; areas with a strange, eerie silence in the midst of a bustling town; a museum which was a treasure trove of history going back as far as the first Roman landings right up to recent mementos of WWII.

This leaves me with overwhelming feelings of sadness at what the human race can do to itself and at the futility of war. It also leaves me with feelings of hope that, by continuing to remember those who have sacrificed themselves to enable us to live the lives we lead, we can continue to learn what matters most in life. By comparison, my recent problems seem very small, and I find it humbling that I can have been so affected when others are still living with reminders of such sacrifices, going right up to the present day and the seemingly daily reminders we get from yet another death in action.

So please, take time today and every day to think about someone you know who may need your support through times of trouble. Remember the living, too.