ON REMEMBRANCE


poppy-fieldMy old mucker O’Reilly of the Hip Flask (see my earlier ‘Declaration of Arbroath’ post) contacted me by email this evening; he and I served in the same Regiment, many moons ago.  O’Reilly brought to my attention a post on another blog, that of ‘Wings Over Scotland’ which is hosted by the Reverend Stuart Campbell.  Reverend Campbell was casting some observations about Remembrance Sunday and the events surrounding the commemoration; there’s a link to Reverend Campbell’s musings at the end of this post below.

To give you a feel for Reverend Campbell’s take on matters remembrance, here’s a snippet from his blog:

This sick perversion of ‘remembrance’ hasn’t just been noticed by chippy Scottish nationalists (who particularly note the transparent, cynical, unimaginably tacky £50 million jamboree planned for just before the independence referendum, rather than on the day in November that has served for the last 96 years).  Many others, including those who served in the even worse war that followed, see what has become of it.”

Reverend Campbell got me thinking and so I penned my reply to O’Reilly which I share with you here, bearing in mind that I served for 20 years as a commissioned officer and did time (well, 4 tours actually) in Northern Ireland during ‘The Troubles’, the Falklands War and the so-called First Gulf War (1990/91).

In recent years I’ve felt myself becoming increasingly alienated from the relationship between the armed forces and society as a whole, viewed as it is these days through the bi-focal lens of a mendacious, self-serving political class in cahoots with a superficial, ‘celebrity’ (whatever that means) obsessed media.  And as for all that reading out the names of the fallen at the Despatch Box, it makes me want to vomit; I turn off the wireless.  Imagine reading out the names of the 19,240 men killed on the first day of the Battle of the Somme?  Fucking idiot politicians.

It saddens me that I feel this way, but I struggle to associate with what’s happening here … to the extent that I didn’t watch the ‘Festival of Remembrance’ programme on the TV last night nor, as it happens, did I watch the Cenotaph goings-on this morning.  I flicked on the TV at 1059 hrs … I listened to Big Ben, I stood quietly for 2 minutes and reflected as you would expect, heard the gun salute, listened to The Last Post with a lump in my throat, watched HM lay her wreath, switched off the telly and got on with my day.

By contrast, on Friday I stood outside Tesco in Elgin and sold poppies for several hours and there experienced the quiet, generous, understated, gently humorous, humbling, no-fuss relationship between a British serviceman (albeit retired, at that) and the citizens he served/serves.  The Reverend Campbell’s article is excellent; it makes me delighted to think that I missed what seems to have been utter crap on TV last night.

Quite where it’s all heading is anybody’s guess.  You may have already seen Christopher Booker’s lamentations in the Daily Telegraph today on the treatment of the armed forces by our political elites over the past 30 years – you can read it here … http://tinyurl.com/nn9a6bz

Per Ardua (which is the motto of my Regiment).

Here’s Reverend Campbell’s article, ‘The Great Circus’ … http://tinyurl.com/o62kx5b

8 comments

  1. I did the same with regards the 2mins of respect on TV…I remember your tours Mr MM…..Thank You..Glad you made it back safe and sound…xxx

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  2. David C · ·

    What successive governments have failed to do is to define the armed forces they want and to then fund it accordingly. They have always said, “This is too expensive and looked to cut what they spend”. You see this in every aspect of government and it won’t change until the political classes change.

    The British Legion needs to raise money every year to support the men and women who carry the scars of war, or the politician’s follies. Regrettably in an X-Factor world we are resorting to X-Factor ways to engage an audience that wants to share the spectacle.

    To the chagrin of Murraymint I live and work in Europe and travelled back to London for Mrs. Thatcher’s funeral to pay my respects. I found a place to stand and put on my medal and paid my respects. But it was clear that many in the crowd were there for the spectacle. “I come to all of these events” said one person stood by me, “I try to get a good place near the cameras and see if I get on TV or in the papers”. Sadly we are becoming an “X-Factor world.”

    I watch the Festival of Remembrance every year because “I was once there” and to remember my Dad who fought in the second world war and was a casualty – never to be the man he once was, but always striving the be the best man he could be. He went to his grave at the early age of 55 with all the horrors of his war still playing like a video in his head. I felt the Dad and Daughter reunion was just plain wrong on so many levels. Camera shots of the politicos all made it seem staged, rather than real. Yet I had a lump in my throat when the widows came in and the old boys marched with their standards. So it does still tug at the heartstrings.

    At the Cenotaph the day is about remembering those that paid the ultimate price and acknowledging those who suffer for their service today: Paradoxically in front of the very same politicos who created the problem. The TV coverage seemed to be about finding veterans who had suffered and asking them to recount, for the masses, their suffering.

    Today is Armistice Day and a friend who lost a leg in conflict and has a full war pension can’t even get his heating sorted. The war pension is not enough to exist on, let alone live on, and is excluded from the list of benefits that would get his heating sorted. His only option is to go to the Legion or SSAFA. And their only option is to raise money “X-Factor” style. Or he can freeze.

    In a little under a hundred years we have truly created a “land fit for hero’s” – X-Factor style.

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    1. moraymint · ·

      Thanks David … I understand your sentiments fully.

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  3. Cannot help but agree wholeheartedly, mm.

    I am reminded of a poem by the English author Frances Quarles in 1632 titled “Of Common Devotion”:

    “Our God and soldiers we alike adore
    Ev’n at the brink of danger; not before:
    After deliverance, both alike requited,
    Our God’s forgotten, and our soldiers slighted.”

    We will remember them. Lest we forget.

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  4. Mike O'Neill · ·

    The population of Britain today has ever fewer who either served of have family (or friends) who did serve. My grandfather was in the trenches, my father in the RAF, an aunt’s husband marched with the Eighth Army and my ex-wife had an uncle captured at Dunkerque. My personal involvement was no more than the CCF at school – and the relatives are all gone.

    My own children have had no such level of contact with the military and must be all the poorer for it, but no opportunity has come their way. I’ve tried to instil respect, to the extent of taking them over to The Somme, Thiepval, Vimy Ridge, Tyne Cot and other places.

    Even poppy sellers are becoming rare – I live and travel around central London – and saw none, until after buying my own poppies from a box on the bar in a Wetherspoons pub.

    In a small Hertfordshire town last week I spoke to a seller. His involvement had been the TA and he was losing wages to stand all week selling poppies; true dedication. He got a note from me and I would like to think from all who passed by, but perhaps not.

    The disconnect will only grow with time. The UK will be the worse for it, as even the likes of me will not be around indefinitely. The best I can suggest is much more exposure and high-profile activity from retired (very) senior officers, their involvement in political activity to deploy the wealth of knowledge and skills in organisational and operational management.

    The face of Lord Kitchener beckons. Their country does need them, now more than ever.

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  5. Ski Carver · ·

    Hi mm,

    Was moving this morning (I was visiting my brother up north and joined him and his family). There was another name to add and the family of the fallen was present.

    I don’t know if I am missing the point when I was asking myself throughout, ‘considering where we are now, what was the point?’ Our current situation only serves to highlight the disgusting waste of life and makes me ashamed I have not done more to stop our slide into state controlled speech and foreign dictator rule.

    On the treatment of our armed forces, I sometimes think it is just incompetence, and sometimes I feel that the uk is being ‘hobbled’ under EU orders to stop us from rising up and freeing Europe when the time comes.

    …. Maybe I have lost perspective, maybe every generation feels like this, …. I am open to thoughts on that.

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  6. IdahoRecluse · ·

    “He’s five foot two and he’s six feet four.
    He fights with missiles and with spears.
    He’s all of thirty-one and he’s only seventeen.
    Been a soldier for a thousand years. . . .”

    — Universal Soldier

    Like

    1. moraymint · ·

      Sums it up Recluse. Hope you’re well …

      Like

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