Shall we not remember?

I want to mark remembrance carefully this year. It’s very important to me, but I’ve been alarmed this time around by the apparent desire to make political capital out of the event. I’m also somewhat concerned at the way some aspects of social media and the press are being used to apparently browbeat people into displays of overt remembrance. This is wrong. Remembering those who died for their country is an intensely personal thing, and any attempt to subvert that with spurious agendas should be opposed at all costs. I think sometimes we forget that the freedom our forces fought for involves freedom of choice, and ever should it be thus.

I also think remembrance is about not just the dead, the fallen and the human cost; it’s about the gross human folly that is conflict and war. That we still expect young people to give their all after thousands of years of societal evolution is a shame on our civilisation. As Tony Benn once put it ‘…all war can be regarded as a failure of diplomacy’. In recent weeks, we’ve explored local histories of conflict and military service here on the Brownhills Blog; Arthur Burton MM and Levi Cooper lived through unimaginably awful times. If there’s one thing we should take from the annual act of remembrance, it’s the desire to stop sacrificing lives in this way. It was notable today that footballers being allowed to wear poppies was on the front pages, but the 385th British serviceman’s death in Afghanistan wasn’t. There is excellent comment on this at the Twohundredpercent blog. Please read it.

As to Remembrance itself – if only for a few minutes, please take time out to consider those that gave, and those who may yet give their lives for us to live in peace and prosperity today. From the fields of Flandria to the jungles of Burma, from the deserts of Iraq to the frozen waters of the South Atlantic, when their time has come, good and noble people have given their all that we may enjoy better days.

Please show your support for those to whom we owe so much by making a donation to the Royal British Legion, who do excellent work. I’m (yet again) taking the liberty of including a link to the remarkably moving Bill Caddick song ‘The Writing of Tipperary’, performed by folk legend June Tabor, a wonderful tribute to the iconic Great War song and the Black Country man who wrote it, Jack Judge.

The Writing of Tipperary

by Bill Caddick

King Edward the Seventh, whom some called the peacemaker
Died in Nineteen-and-ten
He was buried at Windsor, and in the procession
Were the finest and highest of men
There were nine crowned kings, thirty proud princes
Leaders of many a land
And old Kaiser Bill rode next to King George
With his field-marshal’s baton in hand
Crippen was caught that very same year
Haley’s comet flashed by
The first of the labour exchanges was opened
The year the old king died

The Sidney Street siege brought Nineteen-eleven
When anarchy died in the flames
In London in June King George and his queen
Played the Coronation game
“A place in the sun” said the Kaiser in Hamburg
Launching his new battleships
King George made India, Ireland and Wales
Places for right royal trips
Titanic was launched on the day of the Derby
London’s last horse-bus was shelved
Suffragettes marched, demanding their rights
Then in came Nineteen-twelve

Jack Judge went down to West Bromwich town
To welcome the brand-new year
And he went to a pub to have a little sup
‘Cos’ he liked a drop of beer
And when he had a few he started to sing, and his voice he lifted high
My name’s Jack Judge, I’ll write you a song, from Oldbury town come I

A Brummagem fella as was sitting close by
He heard what Jack did say
A pound to a penny, said he to Jack
Yow cor write a song in a day
Jack he laughed and he sang another song
And he said, I’ll take you on
This afternoon I’ll write you a song
And sing it ‘fore the day is done

Jack laughed again, he sang another song
And he called for a pint of beer
Then he caught a train to Stalybridge
Where that night he was due to appear
And on the very first day of Nineteen-twelve
Old Jack Judge won his bet
And the song he made and sang that day
We never will forget

In March Nineteen-twelve, brave Scott and his comrades
Died while a snowstorm roared
And later that year the good General Booth
Finally laid down his sword
There were riots in Ireland concerning Home Rule
Mrs. Pankhurst was imprisoned again
Wilbur Wright died, the first of the fliers
As the Royal Flying Corps was named
Titanic went down in the spring of that year
Taking one thousand five hundred lives
The Balkan states blazed from border to border
As Death began sharpening his knives

Of the Nineteen-ten monarchs who mourned for King Edward
In Nineteen-thirteen few survived
Though some of them lived to a peaceful old age
Assassains took many a life
Death came calmly to China and Sweden
But elsewhere the murderer’s hand
Struck the Pasha of Turkey and the King of the Greeks
While Spain survived Death’s plan
The armies of Europe paraded and postured
The stockpile of weapons increased
At The Hague, as if in grim desperation
They opened the Palace of Peace

More Suffragettes marches brought Nineteen-fourteen
Then the Archduke of Austria was slain
In less than two months, all of Europe was marching
Death was in business again
Many a young man from many a family
Willingly gave of his all
They died in their millions for dubious victory
Answering Kitchener’s call
As they went off to war in the trains and the troopships
They sang as they hurried along
And their words echo back from the graveyards of Flanders
Singing old Jack Judge’s song

It’s a long way to Tipperary, it’s a long way to go
It’s a long way to Tipperary, to the sweetest girl I know
Goodbye Piccadilly, farewell Leicester Square
It’s a long long way to Tipperary, but my heart lies there

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12 Responses to Shall we not remember?

  1. wendy collins says:

    Perfectly put.

  2. Paul Gosling says:

    I think all the entries on here are well written and balanced, but I have to say this one was for me perfect, and very thought provoking, well done.

  3. David Evans says:

    HI Bob

    in one simple ,sincere word; excellent.

    kind regards


  4. kevinjones21 says:

    Good, sensitive and sensible article. Good work Bob

  5. goodcuppa says:

    I agree totally , This is a subject close to my heart. I found out last year about a great uncle who died in WW1. He has no grave, But I feel proud he did what he did for his country, at such a young age.
    Also I remember the friend and many others we knew who lost their lives in the Falklands war. Also the following wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. My husband was in the Army. Let us also remember the loved ones who are left behind too.

  6. sabcat says:

    Remembrance is important. What are you remembering though? Heroes or fought for freedom or victims? I remember victims.

    WWI was disaster and nothing at all to do with freedom or ideology. The dead on all sides were lied to, promised glory. “It’ll be over by Christmas” is a phrase associated with naivety and right enough the men that believed it were naive, those like Kitchener that peddled it were not. He predicted a long and brutal war from the off but that’s not a good recruiting slogan “Go to France, die in horror”. By 1916 no one believed it any more. Men got drafted.

    I don’t donate to the Royal British Legion and I never will but it is an important reminder that what was true in 1921 is true now – The government care little for those they’ve used and destroyed – It takes a charity to look after them Give that charity a Royal charter, make it a national event and turn a national shame into something only crazy people don’t support.

    Read some Wilfred Owen and honour the dead by understanding the truth, not perpetuating the same lies they fell victim too.

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  8. Sheila K says:

    I agree with Bob – something different is happening this year. Suddenly rememberance day has been turned into a nationalistic thing which I don’t recognise. As I was born in the mid 1950’s the second world war was remembered as a recent and traumatic event by my family and all their contemporaries. The memories, songs and films from that time were what we grew up with. I wear my poppy in acknowledgement of that memory and for all those who were killed or injured fighting on our behalf.
    Modern conflicts may seem pointless to us and some are certainly ill advised and have little public support. We must not lose sight however, that young men and women are still being sent to fight and die, and that there was a time still in living memory, when if they had not have done so our country and much of modern Europe would have been consumed by facism.

    • Hi Sheila

      Thanks for your words.

      I’d point out that whilst I understand the necessity to beat fascism, and it’s a good job we did, the seeds of the Second World War we clearly in the first, and the Great Depression. In the inter-war period, Europe was riven by unnatural borders (Weimar republic anyone? Polish corridor?) and I suspect that much of the Second was unfinished business. The Great war was largely senseless to me. Sadly, the allies went from a victory, carved Europe, the middle east up appallingly badly, then plunged into the Cold War. Korea and other battles soon happened. My point is that, as a species (rather than a race) humans seem to still see the sacrifice of their young in expensive, hugely damaging wars as necessary.

      This is not to debase the bravery or sacrifice of those that fought. It’s more lamenting the human loss.

      We can put men on the moon and cure much of what ails us, yet cannot find a better way to resolve conflict after thousands of years. I find that a tragedy.

      Best wishes


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