Fringe Box



Opinion: We Should and Will Remember Them

Published on: 10 Nov, 2016
Updated on: 13 Nov, 2016

Royal_British_Legion's_Paper_Poppy_-_white_backgroundBy Martin Giles

I am sitting by a window in a restaurant in Chapel Street, surveying the passers by to estimate how many are wearing a poppy, just one day before Armistice Day. It seems to me it is less than ten per cent.

The reason for my survey is to assess whether there can be any truth in the claims that there is any pressure felt to conform and wear this emblem of remembrance. If over 90% of people are not wearing one it would seem not.

And quite right too. There is no value in remembrance, homage, or thankfulness that is forced or coerced.

To some of us wearing a poppy is important because we freely wish to remember those that gave their lives for our freedom or the freedom of others. Freedom is not free. It has a terrible cost of which most of us, thankfully, can remain blissfully unaware.

Of course the evidence is close by if we bother to look. Just yards away from where I sit is Guildford’s war memorial, in the Castle Grounds, bearing the names of those from Guildford who were killed in the two world wars.

Nearly 500 names. Each one representing heartbreak and despair for the loved ones they left behind.

Tom and percy Parsons' mother, Fanny, with her daughter Minnie, at Percy's grave. Picture courtesy of Stecey Greenfield.

Percy and Tom and Parsons’ mother, Fanny, with their sister Minnie, at Percy’s grave in Albert, France. Tom and Percy, from St Catherine’s, were killed within a week of each other during the battle of the Somme, just over 100 years ago. Both are listed on the Guildford war memorial. Picture courtesy of Stacey Greenfield.

Tragically, despite the obvious lessons, despite the existence of the United Nations, we have still not discovered an effective, alternative way to defend ourselves from those who are prepared to use force, for their own ends, other than, in the last resort, taking up arms.

Opinion Logo 1Of course, there will always be debate about which circumstances allow a “just” war. For some it is never justifiable. In any case, it is not the soldier’s choice.

No doubt, the fact that I am myself a former soldier, who saw casualties among my comrades, has shaped my view. But even before that, as a child of the sixties, the living memories of two world wars were still a subject of many influential conversations.

In common with most families we had members who had fought in both conflicts and we had little doubt that as a country we had done the right thing for the right reasons and that the terrible cost had been necessary.

But even as a boy, seeing the way my father and grandfather spoke of their experiences, I could tell that it was not a glorious adventure they were remembering. Far from it.

Nor do I believe that glory or jingoism is the prevailing sentiment of those of us who gather at the war memorial on Remembrance Sunday. The mood is correctly solemn, the theme sad and sombre thankfulness and perhaps hope that we can avoid such conflicts in the future.

The Mayor, Cllr Nikki Nelson-Smith laying a poppy wreath at Guildford War Memorial today.

The Mayor, Cllr Nikki Nelson-Smith laying a poppy wreath at Guildford War Memorial at last year’s [2015] Remembrance Sunday ceremony.

I strongly reject the idea that wearing a poppy or taking part in remembrance services is implicitly, or even unintentionally, approving war or militarism.

We should and will remember those, from many different parts of the world, who, however unwillingly, made the sacrifice to allow our mostly free and often privileged lives.

Please note:

The Mayor, Cllr Gordon Jackson will lead a ceremony at the Guildhall, Guildford High Street, to mark Armistice Day and observe the two minutes’ silence at 11am tomorrow, Friday, November 11.

There will be a Civic Service of Remembrance in Holy Trinity Church, Guildford, at 10.55am on Sunday, November 13 followed by a wreath laying ceremony at the Guildford war Memorial in the Castle Grounds..

See also:

Letter: Why I Shall Be Wearing A White Poppy In Remembrance

Opinion: Do You Wear A Poppy?

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Responses to Opinion: We Should and Will Remember Them

  1. Dave Middleton Reply

    November 10, 2016 at 7:49 pm

    Well said Martin Giles, well said.

  2. Jackie Montague Reply

    November 11, 2016 at 1:09 pm

    I agree we should still honour everybody that died in the great wars, even more so today because of the troubling times we live in.

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