Tuesday 16 November 2010


A slightly late post on remembrance.

November 1981 is the first year that I can remember taking part in a Remembrance Sunday parade of some nature. We obviously didn't do much in the Church of the Holy Family in Dunblane, or maybe I didn't notice if something was done. 1981, newly uniformed as a member of the ATC, shiny black shoes with slippery soles, a new short haircut and a parade over the cobbles of Stirling's old town.

I remember the cold, the pain in the ears, the marching, the bugles, some talking at various bits.

The years passed, more Remembrance Sundays, ATC, RAF, a war or two (without much personal involvement). Lots of marching, carrying flags, lots of hearing 'They shall not grow old...' Then civilian life.

Now I am back into processing, rather than marching, but participating in the acts of remembrance in their religious context. I have mixed feelings about my own military service: mainly because I left it early, at my own volition, to pursue other life directions. Was that the right thing to do? At 18 years old I signed up to serve until I was 38! A change of heart at 22 and a move to the Admiralty - at the time it seemed like a cataclysmic change of direction, with hindsight a subtle change of emphasis within the departments of the Ministry of Defence. But I have regrets about having left my military career so early. Was it honourable to have done so?

So when I stand and listen to Binyon's Words and the last post, as I watch the old soldiers march past with their berets and memories, I am unsure whether I am one of them or not. I still know my service number off by heart (that never goes). I have no medals. I studied the ethics of war with fascination, how they have evolved over the centuries. I imagine the hardships of the trenches and the motivation that makes young men and women stand up and take part in such things.

The world has come quite full circle in the regard for those who serve - we quite non-critically laud those who are killed or wounded in the conflicts of today (fought in an asymmetric concept under an 'anticipatory' self-defence within Article 51 of the United Nations charter). And it is right to empathise with the pain and suffering that war brings to all. A media war may gloss over the political context, but the human cost remains visible and real. Just as a human dying on the cross is visible and real.

We will remember them.

1 comment:

  1. I came in search of you and a young lady to whom I was introduced to on Tuesday evening at the Archaeology Society meeting .. she and I share the same name.. but your remembrances of Church Parades took me back too to windy days of march pasts of Companies of Uniformed Guides and Scouts, Cubs and Brownies, ties and neckies swinging up and around freezing ears..the shoes were polished too..then..