My Remembrance Days are a little different to the many; but then I have never been one to follow the crowd. My father signed up the day after War was declared, despite the fact that he was GUARANTEED an automatic deferment because of his birth in Northern Ireland: and he served for the full six-odd years. My uncle Pete signed up at virtually the same time as my dad, joining the Artillery; but he died some twenty-odd miles inland from the Normandy beaches, and is buried in the churchyard of a small Normandy village named Bonnebosq. Hundreds of thousands of men such as my Dad and my uncle Pete answered the grave, cadenced call-to-arms uttered by an honourable man who was one of two things. Neville Chamberlain either had actually believed that Hitler would keep his word: or he was as shrewd as some, such as I, believe him to be; in that he gave us the year before War was actually declared to ready ourselves for the onslaught.
Every Saturday, for a long time now, I sit and read the Daily Telegraph reprint archive from their First World War files. I scan the unbelievable statistics of the Somme, and of Mons, Chateau Thierry and of Vimy Ridge. It is a sobering thought that an estimate of some 15,000 British soldiers died in just fifteen minutes on the morning of the First Battle of the Somme, and modern views state that the totals were actually a great deal larger. The mindset of senior officers, which basically could not get past the idea that if enough men could get past the withering fire of German machine-guns which fired on set lines, they could and indeed should win through to the opposing defensive trenches; meaning that the British or French infantry, having avoided the massive barbed-wire entanglements, literally walked into the murderous hail of bullets, and died in almost straight lines.
We should remember, but not necessarily to the tones of a hymn. We should remember too that politicians are ‘pushed’ by so-called ‘public opinion’ to ‘do something’, and we can see, in the morass which is now Libya, the result of politicians reacting to a supposed ‘humanitarian crisis’ with the threatened city of Benghazi; and hence the overthrow of Ghaddafi, albeit from a distance, and by air-power alone. They wished to involve British Forces in Syria, and by the flukiest of votes, we stayed out of that deadly morass. True, we are ‘bombing’ ISIL, but hey: what can be accomplished with three Tornadoes, which is all they can patch together what with the complete absence of spares, spares which incidentally stopped being produced for that thirty-five year-old bomber ten years ago.
I reckon that we should continue, as a Nation, to honour those who both sacrificed and were sacrificed; to pay tribute to those who paid the ultimate price: but I would strongly suggest that all; repeat ALL bloody politicians be banned from coming closer than five miles of any Remembrance Day service. I would make an honourable exception for any politician who has actually worn the uniform, and saluted the Flag; but for none other. Politicians; there is the same stink of cant as pervades the once-honourable profession of journalists; and I would make the same exclusion for them. They have sold their souls, and write and speak as their masters demand; and with the press and tv: as with the political class, they dance to a different tune; indeed a different drum!