Remembering those who died at arms…

 

Another Remembrance day. Another 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month. Bands and sober crowds with the occasional glint of gold on the chest of men in blazers and regimental ties.

For me, this day always sets off cognitive dissonance. Remembering this kind of death can easily become a kind of glorification; an elevation of war to the great heights of human endeavour. The mass death of men in the flower of youth is so much more marketable than the quiet work of peacemakers, be that in our neighbourhoods or around a table at the UN.

But die they did, and whilst I can not rejoice at their death, nor pretend that being gutted by a shard of shrapnel can ever ennoble, I can pause and pray that we might yet learn something from all the carnage.

And I think the Bishop of London said it this morning quite well- the greatest lesson for us is to acknowledge that war happens when we allow poisonous hatred to flourish in our societies. When we scapegoat, when we point fingers, when we place ourselves inside and others outside.

The endless fascination with the second world war (which I share in part) always takes place with an underlying assumption about how plucky England fought a lonely crusade- a holy war- against the evils of fascism. Our Knights rode Spitfire steeds to slay the Teutonic dragons.

In this stained glass portrait of war it becomes impossible to feel the shame of all the empire building, the asset grabbing and the dreadnought building that Britain indulged in for hundreds of years beforehand- factors which any high school historian has to acknowledge as the fertile fields in which the seeds of both world war were nurtured.

So on this 11th day of the 11th month let us see war for what it is- a terrible failure. Each life lost paid the price of this failure.

Each battle won obscures the failure slightly but failure it remains.

One thought on “Remembering those who died at arms…

  1. Hi, well I agree that war is wrong, and in an ideal world it wouldn’t happen…however, far from glorifying killing, I agree with the following;

    Dear God
    Remember the soldiers,
    Everything they did.
    Memorial..
    Extremely scary for them.
    Many died for us
    Because they wanted peace for us.
    Remind us to be thankful.
    And remember those who lost loved ones.
    Nothing can ever describe the sadness
    Craters from bombs
    Extraordinary red poppies.

    Death and despair
    Amazing victory.
    You should remember!

    Written by a Cub Scout from Draycott nr. Coventry

    Also this, from a piece written about the trip taken by some pupils from St Mary’s High School, Chesterfield…it mentions that the soldiers died so that life could go on ,in the freedom, and freedom of speech that we take for granted…

    “No child or future generation will ever know what it was like. They will never understand. When it is over we will go quietly among the living and not tell them. We will talk and sleep and go about our business like human beings. We will seal what we have seen in the silence of our hearts and no words will reach us”.
    -Sebastian Faulks – ‘Birdsong’

    Reminds me of my late Dad, who was an ex servicemen for Poland and Britain in WW2. He was very reluctant to talk about his experiences in the war, especially the ones that had given him bullet wounds, head trauma, starvation in a Siberian POW camp, chronic migraines, and night terrors. There was nothing glorious about this and although many squaddies are full of self confidence, this mellows with age and experience in most cases, in my experience.
    My brother is a bomb disposal expert and lives abroad, clearing minefields and saving the lives of those who would be ambushed by their own or neighbouring forces…
    Cheers, Nik

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