Remembrance Sunday 2012

On this day 94 years ago at 11am the guns fell silent on the Western Front and World War One ended.  Today is Armistice Day.

Personally I remember my great uncle who died 4 January 1917 aged 65 in East Africa, and his eldest son who was also called Frederick Selous who died 4 January 1918 flying over the Menin Road in France aged 19.  Both Fred’s had the rank of Captain, and the extent of the loss of life is shown by the fact that Young Fred was a Captain at the age of 19.  He was a member of the Royal Flying Corps, as was my father, and loss of life was even greater in this Corps partly because of the unreliability of the aircraft.

I also remember a slightly more distant cousin of my mother’s who was one of the glider pilots who died at Arnheim.

Then I also remember a student I knew at the college where I work who was killed in Afghanistan a couple of years ago.  In some ways his death was even more of a loss because he died in a car crash in a war zone which makes it seem all the more pointless.

The thing with Remembrance Sunday is that the older you get the more you understand the sacrifice and the ‘glory’ of the human spirit.  There is no glory to war only the appalling realisation that human beings have resorted to killing in the defence of pride, rather than talking in defence of compromise and harmony.  I can’t comprehend hating someone enough to want to kill, but equally I can’t understand hating enough to feel that killing is acceptable.  Maybe because as you get older you begin to realise not only how YOUNG some of these people were but that they were individual human beings with a name and that each one was treasured by someone, or should have been.  I believe that there are only two villages in the UK who are doubly ‘lucky’ in that all their people came home alive.  They have no names of the dead to put on a War Memorial, only lists of those who served.

World War Two was indeed, in my opinion, a ‘righteous’ was, but how was it ever allowed to get as far as killing, not only on the field of conflict, but also in the gas chambers and camps where certain people were considered to be sub-human?  How is race to be defined?  By the colour of your skin?  And yet there is more genetic difference between a Kenyan and a Ugandan than there is between a Kenyan and a Norwegian.  There is only one race, the human race, and today in particular we should be united by the loss of youth, and age, of those of so many nations around the world when we should always have been united in our common humanity.

Stalin once said that ‘one death was a tragedy, a million deaths are a statistic’ as a way of excusing and glossing over the lives lost because of him.  Remembrance Sunday is all about each individual tragedy and not the statistics of war.

‘Age shall now weary them, nor the years condemn.  At the going down of the sun, and in the morning, we will remember them’

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