I have just returned from the Remembrance Sunday services at our War Memorial and afterwards in the Parish Church. We rang the half-muffled bells for about twenty minutes before the service started outside at the War Memorial. A small military contingent was present from the Defence School of Languages - all officers with a much decorated NCO to parade them. The Royal British Legion provided a small band and veterans wearing their medals along with the local cadets, scouts and guides provided an impressive turnout. This year the crowds there seemed bigger than ever, and the church was packed afterwards. We sung the hymns that I had learnt and sung at school assembly almost every day of my childhood during the war years. The whole ceremony was very impressive, the more so because of the numbers present.
Returning home, I read John Redwood's daily blog.
He writes about the futility of the first World War and asks why it was fought. It was in no way a "necessary and worthwhile war", there was no ideological reason for our involvement, it was a Balkans war which developed into a Franco-German war and nothing to do with us; we were safe on our side of the English Channel and had no reason to get involved. There was no imperative as with the Second World War; when we had to fight to preserve our independence.
Today, I fully agree with every word that John Redwood says. What he does not say is that to many people in this country the war in Afghanistan is as futile as the First World War, and lives are being needlessly lost for no discernible purpose. There is no idealogical reason (unless you regard it as a war against Islam, and if so why start there?), and it lacks the imperative of being a "necessary and worthwhile war". On this day, more than ever, I ask why our military forces are there.
They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not 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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