It’s that time of year when I note Remembrance here in the UK and personally express my gratitude and concern for those who lost their lives in the service of our country – this post is one I make every year, but evolves as I think and reflect on those who paid and continue to pay a huge price for our freedom.
I know and have known many people, including several great friends whose lives and families have been deeply scarred by war and military service,
The battles that haunt these people – both the ones on the battlefield, and those in their heads – trouble me to this day and I honour and recognise their sacrifice, and that of those who didn’t return from some foreign field.
The business of recording here the lives and histories here of those who fought in the service of the UK in any theatre of conflict goes on, and there will be more history recorded upon this blog in the coming hours, weeks and hopefully, years. Although these people were largely ordinary, what they gave was extraordinary and their stories should be recorded and shared.
There is plenty of work still being done by local bloggers and historians into the service of local people, better that we should recognise and fully pay tribute to them. Work by people like Len and Sue at the Aldridge Great War project, Andrew Thornton, whose patient and thorough research is stunning, the precision of Andy Dennis, the continuing labours of David Evans and the intimate, loving and personal work of Linda Mason, whose Remembrance post this year is as ever, thoughtful and poignant – you can read it by clicking here.
I’d like to express my personal gratitude, and I hope you’ll allow me to speak for the wider community too in thanking all those who worked so hard to raise funds to pay for management of Remembrance Sunday parades – people like Ian Neville whose energy seems limitless, Lee Bragginton and the kids of Walsall Wood, Dave Whitehouse in Pelsall and so many more who undertook challenges, staged events and the countless others who dug deep, including commercial sponsors.
That this fundraising is necessary at all depresses me deeply, but I’m thankful of the community spirit it demonstrates.
As I have done previously here, I suggest we spare some time today to think of those who fought in wars we don’t remember so readily. At the moment, we seem to be particularly caught up in memories of both world wars, but I’d like to think we can spare some time for those lost in smaller, but just as personally devastating conflicts.
The disaster that was Korea cost 1038 service lives; the 1939-1948 Palestine uprising that gave birth to the State of Israel 338. While 16 gave their lives over the Suez Crisis, 768 died during The Troubles nearer home.
We remember all of those lost, whatever theatre of conflict saw their service.
Recently, BBC One has shown a fictional drama set in the now virtually unmentioned conflict in the mid 1960s – Aden, which was arguably the last gasp of a dying British Empire, seeing 90 British forces killed and 510 casualties. The Aden Emergency commenced the escalation of modern Middle Eastern terrorism and resulted in the end of British Rule and the creation of South Yemen, Seeds from this conflict grew bitter fruit that the world still reaps.
The drama itself, called The Last Post, was bleak and harsh, and not without controversy regarding it’s historical accuracy, but brought home the claustrophobic intensity and almost bizarre contrasts of a terrible and ill-fated conflict.
Once again, I will remind readers of the Korean war, a military misadventure in the early 1950s that not only saw over 1,000 fatalities but also a similar number taken prisoner of war. Few today talk about it, but it must be remembered. This awful conflict touched my family and that of friends, the effects every bit as devastating as more widely understood campaigns.
Korea is a battle that scarred many, and it’s of personal importance to me that we should remember them.
I once more include below some videos forming a documentary about Korea, and if you get time today, please watch them. There’s a message here that echoes down the decades.
Yet again this year, I find myself troubled by the changing nature of the poppy as a symbol of Remembrance, and the way it seems to be becoming employed in some corners of the media and society. To me, Remembrance should be solemn, reverential and thoughtful. The poppy is a symbol of this, and of course The Haig Fund. If you wish to display it, fine, but those who do not – for whatever reason – should not be harangued into doing so. Such offensive enforcement isn’t why those intended to be remembered gave their all.
The Poppy is not political, patriotic or nationalist; it is a simple symbol of solemn recollection and thanks. And because this is still a free country, people are free to participate or otherwise, and that should be respected.
Whilst I of course donate and support Remembrance like I would hope we all do, it should be borne in mind that The Haig Fund – set up nearly a century ago – only came into being due to governmental failure to support ex-servicement and their families, a situation sadly unchanged to this day, leaving many who served and who paid the highest of prices dependent on charity.
I really wish that wasn’t the case.
As to the charities themselves, I’m still supporting the work of Soldiers Off The Street. A fine charity without expensive layers of bureaucracy who are making a real difference to ex-forces homelessness. Please click on the link and check them out.