We should never, ever forget. It’s easy to say, and I repeat it every year, but war is an ongoing business. Nearly every year since WWII British servicemen and women have seen active combat in one part of the world or another, and at any time, war is raging somewhere on our planet. The people of all nationalities who fight these wars – and pay the ultimate price – are not special. They are like you or I, they are doing their duty, be it out of choice, compulsion or conscription. They are all the children of somebody, they have brothers and sisters, wives or husbands, and often children of their own. In the main they are working people doing a job. They are ordinary people thrust into extraordinary situations.
Throughout the commonwealth, today is Remembrance Sunday. As the worthy and ennobled lay wreaths and stand in respectful silence, try and think about the Great War – the war that was to end them all. We shipped in young men from around the globe – Africa, Asia, Australasia, India, Canada – to fight the most desperate, desolate battles. They died in their thousands, just like the British troops they fought alongside, but we seldom seem to acknowledge them or tell their story. Please try and think of them today.
Battles rage still today, and young people continue to return dead and injured from foreign fields where they are called to do the hardest job of all. Successive governments have treated ex-servicemen and their families appallingly, with widows pensions being cut to the bone and negligible support when adjusting back to normal civilian life. We, as a country, owe these people so much more than we give them. Any politician that would cut their support should hang their heads in shame. It’s interesting that those who start wars rarely fight in them.
As I say in the sidebar in this blog, I’m free to ramble on like this, and you’re sat in relative comfort reading it because people made sacrifices we now find unpalatable and often unimaginable. We live in a country of political, religious and democratic freedom. We owe this to those who fell, in whatever battle by any gun, bomb or shell. That you can stand up and speak – no matter how unpleasant I may find what you say to be – is because we stand on the memories of those unable to complete the journey. We must never throw that away. Beware of those who would denigrate our freedom or minimise the achievement.
It’s not clear if George Orwell actually said the quote apocryphally attributed to him, but I’m reminded of it now.
People sleep peaceably in their beds at night only because rough men stand ready to do violence on their behalf.
I repeat, we should never, ever forget.