Monday, 12 November 2007

We Shall Remember Them

On Sunday I went to a local Remembrance Day service at nearby Hedge End, where my stepson was taking part in the parade with his cub pack. Despite being a relatively small town of about 18000, it was pleasing to see around a thousand people or more in attendance. It was also good to see how many young boys and girls were attending representing local groups from the Scouts and Guides Associations. These groups, if uniform sales are anything to go by, are certainly seeing a resurgence of interest in recent years.

I thought the service itself was very respectfully done. Held around the village war memorial it did what it said on the tin, being an opportunity to reflect and remember with only the slightest of religious undertone.

It was an overcast day, thankfully the rain held off until minutes after the service ended. There was a very poignant moment when, as the 2 minute silence ended and the bugler played the last post, the sun broke through the clouds to shine brightly just for the few seconds it took for the the various assembled groups to raise their dipped flag standards, and then it was gone again. If a Hollywood movie had done it it would have been corny, yet in real-life it seemed so symbolic.

The one aspect of the service that really brings home the effect that the wars - particularly the first - had on the local communities is the reading of the roll call of the fallen. The list of names seemed endless - as it does when read at the service in my own village of Bursledon - yet the population of both villages at that time would have been but a tiny fraction of what they are today. It relly must have seen virtually every family affected in some way.

The whole Remembrance Day / Poppy Appeal is part of our English way of life. With so many aspects of our national identity being eroded (usually through a misguided fear of upsetting other nations) this is one tradition that should never be allowed to die. If I have a criticism, it would be that it's "reason to be" seems to concentrate too much on the two world wars. I only recently realised that despite us living in an era of "peace" there has only been one year - 1968 - since WWII ended that we haven't lost a British serviceman on active service. Whilst they continue to make the ultimate sacrifice we must continue to make this small but important effort to ensure that they are never forgotten.

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