Just before two this afternoon a thousand or so souls gathered to pay respects to the war dead. The number is similar to last year when there was more emphasis in the media as that concerned the centenary of the beginning of the Great War however the desire to remember has not faded as yet.
The 'Four & Twenty' gathered to lead the paying respects which followed the usual routine of short service, a word, a hymn, a prayer and the laying of wreaths this year by at least 25 groups. The bugler, a young female, played the last post, flags dropped, silence reigned, and at the bugle call the standards arose again. This type of ceremony occurred throughout the United Kingdom today sometimes with similar crowds and at others only one or two people attended. The local dead were not forgotten.
It is important to remember why these events take place. Politicians cause wars, not soldiers, they merely fight them. On two occasions world wars took the lives of millions and the entire nation was involved it seems to me that on both occasions the war had to be fought to prevent Germanic hegemony over Europe. Freedom was indeed at stake on both occasions and these deaths must not be forgotten nor the freedom they fought for lost. It is interesting that some of the most ardent opponents of fighting wars tend to be soldiers, they after all know the cost.
Local groups attended in great force today. I was not aware so many belonged to uniformed organisations today. Certainly the majority were primary school age but there were many in the teenage age groups in other organisations. It is likely that many of these will continue on into the armed forces, learning a wide variety of skills, travelling the world, encountering strange experiences and of course shooting people. In the end that is part of the job.
Two of the men present served after 1945. One saw service in Iraq during the First Gulf War then found himself posted to the Balkans. He was lucky enough to have two chances to die! The other served in the RAF with Bomber Command and saw action during the Suez Crisis of 1956, another Prime Ministers Middle East mistake. Both were worthy men and both ought to be remembered while living just as comrades may be remembered when dead. We tend to forget 'Our Boys' when they leave the services and let them rot, this should not be.
A cross section of the district is represented here. Not just from the town but from the villages round about. Many would attend their local Memorials others may have gathered here. In some villages the memory of the departed has long gone. Where once the locals knew one another and those in the villages around today the incomers, running from the big city, drive in and shut the doors rarely meeting the neighbours. Supermarkets are close by and all deliver to your door. The need to go out is limited, meeting places close, at east one pub will remain open but others become Indian restaurants or housing. Many of those who left a hundred years ago would not recognise the towns they grew up in today.
All paid full attention, mostly...
A soldiers thoughts.
When first I saw you in the curious street
Like some platoon of soldier ghosts in grey,
My mad impulse was all to smite and slay,
To spit upon you—tread you 'neath my feet.
But when I saw how each sad soul did greet
My gaze with no sign of defiant frown,
How from tired eyes looked spirits broken down,
How each face showed the pale flag of defeat,
And doubt, despair, and disillusionment,
And how were grievous wounds on many a head.
And on your garb red-faced was other red;
And how you stooped as men whose strength was spent,
I knew that we had suffered each as other,
And could have grasped your hand and cried, "My brother!"
Joseph lee, 4th Black Watch.