Tuesday, 7 November 2017

A Tribute to the Services Dead

I am not brave enough to serve in the services and I am in awe and humbled that people do and sometimes risk their lives in doing so. I usually make a point of watching the Service of Remembrance at the Albert Hall and recording and then watching the ceremony from the Cenotaph in London on Remembrance Sunday. 

It is my opinion that it is to the eternal shame of our politicians that none of them seemed to go to Royal Wootton Bassett for the repatriation of the military dead (who went to die on their orders) that passed through there on their way from RAF Lyneham to John Radcliffe Hospital in Oxford. 

It is even worse that when RAF Lyneham closed the Government ensured that the repatriated dead were sent to John Radcliffe Hospital via a 'back door' (the Britannia Gate) from RAF Brize Norton. Anyone with any doubt should read this by Peter Hitchens (http://hitchensblog.mailonsunday.co.uk/2013/09/thoughts-on-repatriation-and-how-the-government-really-views-the-deaths-of-soldiers.html):
‘HERE'S the truth about the Government's decision to route the hearses of soldiers killed in its various stupid wars away from any of the nation's High Streets. 
This comes into effect very soon, when the bodies of the dead start to arrive at RAF Brize Norton, next to the Oxfordshire town of Carterton. 
Junior Defence Minister Andrew Robathan stumbled a bit trying to deal with this in Parliament on Monday. 
First, he disclosed that the back gate of the RAF base, through which the hearses will pass, is to be renamed the Britannia Gate. Who thinks of these things? The Downing Street cat? Were I to rename the back door of my house the Britannia Door, it would still be the back door. 
Then he said that the route through Carterton was unsuitable for corteges because it has speed bumps. So does the bypass route that the processions will actually take, as Mr Robathan ought to know. 
He added that Carterton's streets were 'very narrow'. I doubt that they are narrower than those of Wootton Bassett, and plan to check them myself, unless anyone has measurements to hand. 
But he was rescued from his confusion by a fellow Unconservative, the North Wiltshire MP James Gray. Mr Gray asked: 'Does the Minister agree that it might not be possible, nor indeed quite right, to seek to replicate the Wootton Bassett effect elsewhere, as that was a chapter in our history? I am not sure we necessarily want to see it repeated elsewhere.' 
Mr Robathan eagerly responded, saying Mr Gray had made 'a very good point'. Really? What was so good about it? I wonder who Mr Gray means when he says that 'we' do not want to see Wootton Bassett's spontaneous, unofficial, genuine expression of respect for courage, discipline and loyalty to be repeated. He certainly doesn't speak for me.’

If you look at this piece of film from The Royal British Legion Festival of Remembrance 2015 (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AfhrDpErodY) and watch from 44 minutes 46 to 49 minutes 16 to be greatly moved by this segment on the death of service personnel and the loss of the families too.

For those who died at sea, the Royal and Merchant Navies there is often no grave, just the deep of the sea. I found this poem by Eileen Mahoney and think it is a wonderful dedication to them: http://www.iwvpa.net/mahoneye/index.php
In ocean wastes no poppies blow,
No crosses stand in ordered row,
Their young hearts sleep... 
beneath the wave...
The spirited, the good, the brave,
But stars a constant vigil keep,
For them who lie beneath the deep.

There is this piece from Semi-Partisan politics (https://semipartisansam.com/2017/10/20/the-best-one-percent/) about statements made in the United States and the first 15 minutes of this film deserves to be (and is just) 'must see' viewing.
Most Americans don’t know what happens when we lose one of soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines, our Coast Guardsmen in combat. So let me tell you what happens: Their buddies wrap them up in whatever passes as a shroud, puts them on a helicopter as a routine, and sends them home. Their first stop along the way is when they’re packed in ice, typically at the airhead. And then they’re flown to, usually, Europe where they’re then packed in ice again and flown to Dover Air Force Base, where Dover takes care of the remains, embalms them, meticulously dresses them in their uniform with the medals that they’ve earned, the emblems of their service, and then puts them on another airplane linked up with a casualty officer escort that takes them home.
Young men and women volunteer for the armed services and of course they take the risks that come with that decision. They must serve wherever the elected Government (elected by the electorate) sends them. Some will die doing what they have been told to do. 

In my view, whatever we think of the politicians and political decisions made in sending service personnel to conflict and war zones, it is my duty (yes duty) to remember that they died for the cause of the United Kingdom at that particular moment 
O valiant hearts who to your glory came 
Through dust of conflict and through battle flame; 
Tranquil you lie, your knightly virtue proved, 
Your memory hallowed in the land you loved.

Of Course I respect those who will not or do not want to wear a poppy. There should be no media or popular clatter against the choice of people like John Snow. That's the point really. Their personal freedom of choice was partly earned by those that died in order to obtain and defend it.

I went to visit the battlefields of the Ypres salient this year. Standing under the Menin gate and listening to the last post being sounded surrounded by the names of the dead with no known grave is deeply moving. Swallowed by the mud.
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