Saturday, 9 November 2013

Day of Remembrance

I walked past Westminster Abbey on Tuesday morning on my way to a meeting.  People were kneeling in the pouring rain hammering small wooden crosses topped with red poppies into the lawn outside.  On my way back the rain had stopped and I walked through the garden reading all the countries, regiments and organisations represented.  No doubt by the time the service at the Cenotaph takes place on Sunday it will be full.

There is always a strident minority that campaign not to wear red poppies as they “glorifiy war”.  They don’t seem to realise that they memorialise death – a predictable consequence of war.  Besides that, the money goes to the Royal British Legion who take care of the families and the wounded without challenging whether this war was better than that war – I am wearing mine. 

I thought it was sad for many years when South Africa was out in the wilderness that their ambassador never laid a wreath in memory of the thousands of South Africans who fought and those who died, particularly in World War II.  There was no conscription in South Africa (and it was touch and go whether the government of the day supported the Allies or the Axis powers). 

Those who signed up did it out of conscience: my father, recently qualified as a surgeon and newly married, served on a British hospital ship during the war, coming back to start his surgical practice from scratch at the end.  He spoke very rarely about his experiences apart from the fact that he once operated for three days and nights with only brief naps while the operating theatre was prepared for the next patient. My mother did tell me, after he died, of the nightmares he suffered for several years afterwards. I wear my poppy out of respect for him and many others. 

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