How was your Remembrance Sunday? Did you mark the occasion? Did you observe the silence? Well, wherever you were, I hope you did something in honour of all those men and women who gave their lives for the country you were born in….If you are British that is.
As I am currently in the UK, I thought I would wander down to the local cenotaph around 10:30am, and was quite surprised by the police cordon and the crowds. Around one thousand people turned up; one thousand souls made up of young and old – how wonderful.
Finding a good position was difficult but, it was possible to see the dignitaries and servicemen standing ramrod straight on the monument stairs. Uniform was the order of the day: mirror shine on shoes that poked out under crisp clean fabric with not a wrinkle. Soldiers, Sailors, Policemen, Lifeboat Men and The Salvation Army stood alongside servicemen from the Second World War who stood proud, wearing medals on their chests and memories on their faces.
In a sea of red poppies, cadets paraded to the beat of a drum, flags were held aloft and speeches were given to an attentive crowd before the two minute silence. In the stillness that followed, the only sound heard was that of a seagull or restless child. Hats were removed and heads were bowed as due respect was shown to those who gave their lives in exchange for ours.
A different sound ensued during the service; a rustle of tissue, a sniff here and there. A collective emotion that ran through the crowd when we were reminded of the servicemen who “gave their today for our tomorrow” a single tear slid down my cheek……I’m not sure there are more powerful words. Those beautiful young men, proudly donning their uniforms and taking up arms for a country they believed in. If they could see into the future at this country as it is now, would they have felt the same? Would it have been worth losing their lives for? They did us proud and what do we do? How many of us stand up and fight for our country? For a country that was once great enough to be called Great Britain. You don’t need a uniform to do that.
I can’t talk can I – I live abroad – It’s the easy option: move to a foreign country because you’re not that enamoured with yours anymore. For a while yesterday, I felt ashamed of that. On the other hand, yesterday I was immensely proud – I’m British godammit and that used to mean something.
As always, I think of my Grandad and remember his stories of the war. Stories that I meant to write down and never got round to. I’m angry at myself for that.
As the servicemen and women prepared to march along the road and the crowd thinned, we went over to the monument to read the messages on the wreaths and take some photos. I turned to get a shot of the “Lest we forget” that is etched into the grass and stopped dead. On one side, a serviceman in a wheelchair was bent forward trying to place a small wooden cross into the earth. My throat constricted. I watched him struggle to reach and I watched the look on the face of his female companion, painfully resigned to the fact that she couldn’t help him. Grit determination was apparent on his face and when he succeeded, he simply sat, head bowed for a few seconds. As he wheeled himself around to leave, his shoulders slumped forward and his head fell into his hands. It was a moment I think his companion was prepared for. She wrapped her arms around him, comforting him as he crumpled. It was such a powerful image and it broke my heart a little.
We walked alongside the parade. People clapped and some waved flags. I spied an elderly gent with a tray full of poppies and handed him a tenner.
“I’ve got no change” he said
“I don’t want any – It’s for you” I said
“oooo for me” said the cheeky old sausage with a glint in his eye.
At the end of the parade, flags were wrapped, hands were shaken and everyone resumed their normal day to day lives. As for me, I went shopping.
To all of our servicemen who fought past wars and those still in active service, I thank you for my today.
God bless you